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Title: The Academic Gregories
Author: Stewart, Agnes Grainger
Language: English
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                         THE ACADEMIC GREGORIES


                        AGNES GRAINGER STEWART:


                           PUBLISHED BY    ●
                           OLIPHANT ANDERSON
                          & FERRIER·EDINBVRGH
                           AND LONDON   ◯  ◯


                  The designs and ornaments of this
                  volume are by Mr Joseph Brown, and
                  the printing is from the press of
                  Messrs Turnbull & Spears, Edinburgh.

 _April 1901_


As far back as I can remember there hung in my father’s study two
prints, the one a mezzotint of Professor James Gregory, and the other,
inferior as a picture, but most beautiful in its subject, an engraving
of William Pulteney Alison.

In answer to nursery enquiries as to the stories belonging to these two
pictures, there had always perforce to be some dark facts related in
connection with Dr James Gregory, but these were kept rather in the
background, and the impression we got of him came nearer to the
incidental portrait which Robert Louis Stevenson draws of him in ‘Weir
of Hermiston.’ With William Pulteney Alison we could, as it were, shake
hands, for the story teller could here insert a piece of real history,
of how, long ago, this man had sat beside his crib watching over him,
holding him back from the arms of Death. We watched with him as he sat
there ministering to this sick child, keeping alive the little flicker
of life, keeping the little restless body still. ‘If he moves, he will
faint,’ Professor Alison had said. ‘If he faints, he will die.’ Across
the gap of years other children held their breath till the little
patient fell asleep.

But the most interesting fact about Gregory and Alison to us as children
was that they had both been professors of the Practice of Physic in
Edinburgh University, and the little boy who had so nearly died now
lectured in the place of the physician who had saved his life.

This early acquaintance gave me a love for these professors, and when I
came to be asked to write a book upon the Academic members of the old
Scottish family of Gregory, two of them at least were familiar as

In the preparation of my book I have received much kindness, and I
should especially like to thank Mr Philip Spencer Gregory, of Lincoln’s
Inn, Barrister-at-Law, late Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, for the
help which he as a representative of the family was able to give me, and
also for his very interesting ‘Records of the Family of Gregory.’ My
thanks are also due to Professor Campbell Fraser for personal
introduction to sources of information, to Mr Turner, Savilian Professor
of Astronomy in the University of Oxford, and to Mr Henry Johnstone of
the Edinburgh Academy and Mr R. S. Rait, Fellow of New College, Oxford,
who have read my proofs. I must also record my debt of gratitude to the
Editors for the great kindness and courtesy they have shown to me.

                                                 AGNES GRAINGER STEWART.



                                CHAPTER I

 THE GREGORIES                                                         9

                               CHAPTER II

 DAVID GREGORIE OF KINAIRDY, 1625–1720                                19

                               CHAPTER III

 JAMES GREGORIE, 1638–1675                                            27

                               CHAPTER IV

 DAVID GREGORY, 1661–1708                                             52

                                CHAPTER V

 DAVID GREGORY, 1696–1767                                             77

                               CHAPTER VI

 (1) JAMES GREGORIE, 1666–1742; (2) CHARLES GREGORIE, 1681–1739;      84
   (3) DAVID GREGORIE, 1712–1765

                               CHAPTER VII

 (1) JAMES GREGORIE, 1674–1733; (2) JAMES GREGORIE, 1701–1755         92

                              CHAPTER VIII

 JOHN GREGORY, 1724–1773                                             100

                               CHAPTER IX

 JAMES GREGORY, 1753–1821                                            125

                                CHAPTER X

 WILLIAM GREGORY, 1803–1858                                          141

                               CHAPTER XI

 RETROSPECT                                                          152

                Rev. John Gregorie of Drumoak = Janet Anderson
                |                                                |
     David of Kinnairdie, d. 1730     James, St And., Mathematics, 1669–74
                |                         Edinburgh, Mathematics, 1674–75
                |                                                |
       +--------+-------+------------+-----------+--------+      |
       |                |            |           |        |      |
 David, Edin.,          |    Charles, St And.,   |        |      |
   Math., 1683–91       |          Math.,      Isobel  Margaret  |
   Oxford, Astronomy,   |         1707–39        =        =      |
   1692–1708            |            |  Patrick Innes Lewis Reid |
       |         James, St Andrews,  |           |        |      |
       |         Phil., 1685–91      |     Alex. Innes,   |      |
       |         Edinburgh, Math.,   |     Mar. Coll.,    |      |
       |         1691–1725           |     Philosophy,    |      |
       |                             |      1739–42       | James, King’s
 David, Oxford,                    David,                 | Coll., Medicine,
 Modern History,               St Andrews, Math.,         | 1725–32
 1724–67                           1739–65                |
                                             |            |
                             Thomas Reid, King’s Coll.,   |
                               Phil., 1751–64             |
                               Glas., Phil., 1764–96      |
                             |                               |
                 James, King’s Coll.,                       John,
                     Med., 1732–55      King’s Coll., Phil., 1746–49
                                        King’s Coll., Med., 1755–66
                                        Edinb., Practice of Physic, 1766–73
                            |                                |
 James, Edinb., Inst. of Med., 1776–89          Dorothea = Rev. Arch. Alison
          "     Practice of Physic, 1790–1821                |
                            |                                |
            +---------------+----------+ William Pulteney Alison
            |                          | Edinb., Med. Juris., 1820–21
 William, King’s Coll., Chem., 1839–44 |   "     Inst. of Med., 1821–42
          Edinb., Chem., 1844–58       |   "     Practice of Physic, 1842–55
                 Duncan Farquharson, Fellow of Trin. Coll., Camb.

                         THE ACADEMIC GREGORIES

                               CHAPTER I

                             THE GREGORIES

         ‘The moon’s on the lake, and the mist’s on the brae,
         And the clan has a name that is nameless by day.
             Then gather, gather, gather Grigalach!’

                             _The Macgregor’s Gathering_—SCOTT.

The able Scots family of Gregorie can trace its descent from the
Macgregors of Roro, the younger branch of the Glenlyon family. The name
Gregorie,—which is the Saxon form of M’Gregor—had, most fortunately for
its owners, been assumed before 1603, the darkest time in the annals of
that clan. The proscription which then fell upon everyone bearing the
name of M’Gregor could not touch the Gregories; but the change of name,
which saved them from the penalties that fell so heavily upon their
Highland cousins could not and did not alter their natures, and all the
Gregories, with perhaps the single exception of the Dean of Christ
Church, were at heart M’Gregors. Nothing that civilisation, education,
wealth and society could do to modify their disposition was able
entirely to obliterate in them the warlike character of their Highland
forefathers. We remember this, and when in the nineteenth century we see
a learned professor of the Practice of Physic beating his
fellow-professor in Edinburgh University quadrangle, we know that he was
not really James Gregory but James M’Gregor.

The claim of the Gregories to recognition in Scottish biography does not
rest on the outstanding genius of any individual member of the family,
so much as on the number of great and brilliant men belonging to it, who
have, in their day, formed and educated generations of the youth of
Scotland. From the middle of the seventeenth century to the middle of
the nineteenth century, with a gap of only a few years, some of the
Gregorie connection were professing either mathematics or medicine in
one or other of the Scottish universities. They were great teachers,
lucid, clear-sighted and advanced in their views, and naturally leaders
of men. Galton, in his book on _Hereditary Genius_, in which he
‘endeavoured to speak of none but the most illustrious names,’ cites the
Gregories as a striking example of hereditary scientific gifts. He
considers that the mathematical power came into the family with Janet
Anderson, who married the Rev. John Gregorie, parish minister of Drumoak
in the year 1621. From these two are descended no less than fourteen
professors, and as there is no record of special power in the Gregorie
family till we come to the sons of John Gregorie, it may be taken for
granted that the ability came from the Andersons, who were distinguished
in the foregoing generations.

Janet Anderson was the daughter of David Anderson of Finzeach, in
Aberdeenshire; a man who was possessed of such universal talent that he
was popularly called ‘Davie do a’ thing.’ Two of his deeds come down to
posterity; the one, the building of St Nicholas steeple in Aberdeen,
upon which he himself is said to have placed the weather-cock; and the
other, the removal of a great boulder, called Knock Maitland, which lay
in the entrance to Aberdeen harbour and endangered the passage of every
ship sailing in or out. This he removed by placing chains under it at
low tide, and fastening them to a huge raft, which at high tide lifted
up the rock and carried it out to the open sea.

Janet Anderson’s near kinsman was the Professor of Mathematics in the
University of Paris, and she herself was a great mathematician and is
said to have taught her sons. If that was the case, one at least of her
pupils did her great credit, for her younger son, James, lived to take a
foremost place among the mathematicians of his day, and to be the
inventor of the Gregorian Telescope.

In 1621, when the Rev. John Gregorie married Janet Anderson, he was the
minister of Drumoak, a remote parish on the Dee, where in peaceful times
he might have fulfilled his quiet duties with little to disturb him.
Towards the end of the first half of the seventeenth century, however,
Scotland was in a ferment, and in a state of civil and religious turmoil
which made itself felt throughout the land. In Aberdeenshire, both the
clergy and the laity were in sympathy rather with Laud and Prelacy than
with Henderson and Presbytery. This brought them into violent collision
with the party in power, and among the rural clergy there were few names
more distasteful to the Covenanters than the name of John Gregorie. When
therefore in 1639, the government sent an army to coerce refractory
Aberdeenshire, he knew that he would receive no toleration and fled,
meaning to join the king at Newcastle. The ship in which he tried to
escape was boarded, and the fugitives were made to return, and in the
following year Gregorie’s fears were realised, for General Monro, who
was then stationed near Aberdeen on the outlook for rebels from the
Covenant—especially rich ones—remembered the minister of Drumoak.
Spalding tells us the pitiful story.

‘Upone the second day of Junij, Mr Johne Gregorie, minister at Dalmoak,
wes brocht in to Munro be ane pairtie of soldiouris. He wes takin out of
his naikit bed upone the nicht, and his hous pitifullie plunderit. He
wes cloislie keepit in Skipper Andersonis hous haveing fyve muskiteris
watching him day and nicht, sustenit upone his awin expensis. None, no
nocht his awin wyfe could have privie conference of him, so straitlie
wes he watchit. At last he is fynit to pay generall Major Munro 1000
merkis for his outstanding agains the covenant and syne gat libertie to
go. Bot in the Generall Assemblie holdin in July, he wes nevertheless
simpliciter deprivit, becaus he wold not subscryve the covenant; and
when all wes done he is forst to yield, cum in and subscryve, as ye have

It was not till 1641 that, at St Andrews, the Laird of Drum’s petition
for his restoration had effect; when in token of his reinstatement,
Gregorie along with his rival, Mr Andrew Cant, was chosen to preach at
the visitation of the Presbytery of Aberdeen. This fellowship with a
man, whose qualities have been embalmed in his name, very nearly cost
him the favour of the party to which he now belonged. Here again is
Spalding’s account, naïve and full of the spirit of the time.

‘Upone Tuysday 6^{th} September, Mr Johne Gregorie, minister at Dulmoak
at the visitatioun of the Kirk of New Abirdene teichit most lernidlie
upone the 4^{th} verss of the 2^{nd} chapdour to the Collosians, and
reprehendit the order of our Kirk and new brocht in poyntes. Mr Andrew
Cant, sitting besyde the reidar, as his use was, offendit at this
doctrein, quicklie cloissit the reidaris buke, and laid down the glass
befoir it wes run, thinking the minister sould the sooner mak an end;
bot he beheld and preichit half ane hour longer nor the tyme. Sermon
endit the bretheren convenis to their visitatioun, quhair Mr Andrew Cant
impugnit this doctrein, desyring the said Mr Johne to put the samen in
wreit, who answerit, he wold not only wreit bot print his preiching, if
neid so requirit, and baid be all what he had teichit as orthodox
doctrien. The bretheren hard all and had their owne opiniouns, and but
ony more censure they disolvit, sumwhat perturbit with Cantis
curiositie. Upone Thuirsday, he raillit out in his sermon aganes the
said Mr Johne Gregorie’s doctrein, and on Sunday likwais. At last, be
mediatioun of the toune’s balleis at a coup of wyne, they twa war satled
with small credet to Cantis bussines.’

Though Gregorie was not censured by the whole body of the clergy in
1642, as there seems little doubt Mr Cant had intended, he was not
absolutely free from anxiety. No doubt life went smoothly enough with
him at times, for he amassed quite a large fortune. The estates of
Kinairdy and Netherdale were given to him on the insolvency of the
Crichtons in satisfaction of £3,800 which he had lent to them; and his
wife on her part had succeeded on her father’s death to a portion of the
estates of Finzeach. The land brought its sorrow with it, and passed out
of the hands of the family again, but that was afterwards.

In 1649 John Gregorie was once more deposed, and for the last time. The
Synod recommended that he should be reinstated, but he did not long
survive this recommendation. He died in 1650, and was buried at Drumoak.

Among the slaty monuments in the churchyard there is none that bears the
name of John Gregorie. Two hundred and fifty years have obliterated what
must once have been written, and the Dee is gaining ground from the
graveyard at every time of spate. The old church stands and the manse,
which has been turned into a farmhouse, but that is all.

There is a memorial of John Gregorie and his wife in a mortification for
the education and maintenance of ten poor orphans ‘within the said
Burgh’ of Aberdeen.

John Gregory left three sons, Alexander, who was served heir to his
father’s very considerable property in 1651, David, known as David of
Kinairdy, and James, the great professor of astronomy. His two
daughters, Margaret and Janet, were both married, the latter to Thomas
Thomson of Faichfield.

Loving and generous, as no one who reads about Alexander Gregorie can
doubt that he was, he would yet barely have been included in this book,
if it had not been for his terrible death, which made the family estates
fall into the hands of his younger brother. Kinairdy and Netherdale,
which had been allotted by law to his father on the bankruptcy of the
Crichtons, were too much favoured by their former possessors to be
relinquished without disturbance into the hands of their rightful
owners. The Crichtons harried Alexander Gregorie, and that so
frequently, that he was obliged at last in 1660 to seek the shelter of
the law. James, second Viscount Frendraught, took no notice of the
summons to appear at court, and so was outlawed, but this sentence was
remitted upon his giving security (in a bond of £40,000 Scots or £3,333,
6s. 8d. sterling) to keep the peace and to appear before the Privy
Council to answer the charges made against him. Bonds such as this
succeeded each other, till the final outbreak which occurred on the 7th
of March 1664. Then with the shed blood of Alexander Gregorie came
peace, but at what a cost. In the records of the Justiciary Court there
is a description of the murder, which somehow belies its dusty origin,
and sounds as if some old Aberdeenshire gossip were telling the tale
with real enjoyment over her peat fire.

‘It is of veritie that the said James, Viscount of Frendraught and the
said James Crichtoun of Kinairdy, and Frances Crichtoun his sone, having
unjustlie conceaved ane deidlie hatred and cruell malice against
umq^{le} Mr Alex^r Gregorie of Netherdeall and the said Frances
Crichtoun having upon the sevent day of March last by-past rancountered
with the said Mr Alex^r Gregorie at the hous of Mr Alex^r Gairdine
minister at Forge, the said Frances treacherouslie inveited and desyred
the said Mr Alex^r to goe alongs with him from the said hous, which he
fearing no harme did, and as they went alongs the said Frances Crichtone
without any provocatione (of) foirthought, felony and precogitat malice
drew his sword and rane at the said umq^{le} Mr Alex^r Gregorie thinking
to have killed him at one thrust; but the said umq^{le} Mr Alex^r,
everting the stroak and closing with him, not offering to doe him any
prejudice at all, the said James Duffus drew his sword and stroke at the
said umq^{le} Mr Alex^r whereat his horse running away and the said
Frances mounting on his horse, he divers times ran upon the said
umq^{le} Mr Alex^r and wounded him in his arme, whereupon the said
umq^{le} Mr Alex^r yielded himself prisoner to the said Frances and
delivered to him his sword being requyred be him sua to doe, hoping that
his honour would therrupon have obliged him to have desisted from all
furder trubling and assalting him, but upon the contrair the said
Frances baislie and treacherouslie with the assistance of the said James
Duffus his servant persewed him more eagerlie than befoir, fyred
pistolls at him, gave him several wounds in his breast and head to the
effusione of his blood in great quantitie and then caused him to mount
up behind the said James Duffus and caryed him to the hous of George
Morisone of Boignie, and putt him in ane chamber wherein the said James
Viscount of Frendraught was lodged and then the said Frances Crichtone
left him and upon the morne, being the last day of March last by past,
about thrie hours in the morning, the said Frances Crichtone accompanied
with Walter Henry, gairdiner at Frendraught, William Innes yr., George
Mearns yr., Rob Tarres yr., James Howie, sone to Georg Howie in
Tounslie, and the said James Duffus all in armes cam to the said hous of
Boignie, where the said umq^{le} Mr Alex^r Gregorie was lying bleeding
in his wounds, they and the said James Viscount of Frendraught and
George Forbes his servant efter many baise and opprobious threatenings
uttered be them against the said umq^{le} Mr Alex^r did most inhumanly
and barbarouslie dragg him out of his bed as he was lying bleiding in
his wounds, and that without cloak, hat, or shoves, or bootts, and did
cast him overthwart ane hors, upon his breast, his head and armes
hanging on the ane syd and his leggs on the other syd and so caryed him
away in ane cold and stormy morneing to George Yong’s hous in Coanloch
being ane obscure place and myles distant from the said hous of Boignie
where they keiped him prisoner ... in his wounds be the space of threi
days, _tanquam in privato carcere_; and then, deserting and leaving him,
he was upon the threttein day of the said month by the help of some
friends caryed to the burgh of Aberdeine, where he lay languishing of
the said wounds and the bad usage which he had receaved of the
foir-named persons, and then dyed of the samyne and sua was cruelly and
unnaturally killed and murdered be them; of which murder under trust, at
least slaughter committed upone precogitat malice and forethought
felony, as also of the said usurpatione of His Majestie’s authority in
takeing and apprehending unwarrantably ane frie leidge, the foirsaids
persons and ilk ane of them, as also the said James Crichtoune of
Kinairdie by whose instigation and hunding out the foirsaids crymes of
slaughter upon foirthought felony and precogitat malice and usurpation
of His Majestie’s authoritie were committed and are actors airt and
pairt, and the samyne being found be ane assize they aught to be
punyshed theirfor in their persons and goods to the terour and example
of utheris to commit the lyk heirafter.’

Surely this was not a case for the King’s leniency; yet because Francis
Crichtone was a Roman Catholic, and favoured by the Duke of York, a
warrant came from His Majesty for the suspension of the trial of Francis

‘Compeired Mr George Mackenzie advocate, and produced ane letter from
His Majestie directed to the Justice General and Justice depute whereof
the tenor follows, Superscribed Charles R. Whereas we are informed that
Alexander Gregorie did not die of the wounds alleged to have been given
him by Frances Crichtone now prisoner at Edinburgh, these are to require
you to suspend that criminal process against Frances Crichtone until we
shall hear further concerning that business from our Privy Council at
their next meeting in June, for which this shall be your warrand. Given
at our Court at Whitehall the 13^{th} day of May 1664 and of our reign
the 16^{th} year by His Majestie’s command.

                                               ‘Sic subitur Lauderdaill.

‘To our right trustie and right well-beloved cousin and counselloure and
to our trusty and well-beloved our Justice General or Justice Depute.’

James Crichtone of Kinairdy and Viscount Frendraught were acquitted at
the trial, the assistants at the murder were ‘put to His Majestie’s
horn, and all their goods forfeit.’ As for Francis Crichtone, the
principal in this affair, having procured the postponement of his trial,
he escaped from the Tolbooth Prison; and after another futile attempt on
the part of the Gregories to secure a trial, he obtained a pardon under
the Great Seal in 1682.

                               CHAPTER II

                 DAVID GREGORIE OF KINAIRDY, 1625–1720

         ‘Not skill alone of ear and eye
         Was yours, but something more—a heart.’

                                 —_Echoes and After-thoughts._

David Gregorie, the second son of the Reverend John Gregorie, was
destined by his father for a commercial career. Alexander, his elder
brother, as we have seen, was heir to the estates of Kinairdy and
Netherdale, and to a good deal of money: the young brother James was so
remarkable a mathematician that he was allowed to follow his own bent
and devote himself purely to mathematics. But David, poor David, most
unwilling to go, was sent to Holland to learn to be a merchant, probably
to Campvere, the happy haven to which so many Scots traders turned.
Herrings and stockings—the great Aberdeen exports of the day—how we can
imagine David Gregorie seeing to the unlading of such cargo as this,
with his heart and very likely his head far away in Scotland! Anyhow he
did not stay a day longer in Holland than was necessary, for after his
father’s death he returned home and settled in Aberdeen in 1655. In the
same year he married Jean, daughter of Patrick Walker of Orchiston, a
great Episcopalian, and also a great Tory.

David Gregorie was only thirty, and the best of life was still before
him. He spent his time in just such a way as attracted him. He studied
medicine, mechanics, mathematics and physics, read every interesting
book within his reach, and corresponded with scientific contemporaries
both in Scotland and out of it. His letters, full of thoughts about the
atmospheric laws, went to Edmé Mariotte in his cell. He may have got
some help from them—certainly Gregorie was immensely interested in the
Frenchman’s discoveries.

His life was enriched by many delightful friendships, but more than all
by the affection shewn to him by his brothers and expressed in so many
practical ways. In 1660 Alexander settled the property of Over
Aschalache on David and his family, subject to the life-rent of old Mrs
Gregorie. It was a most kind arrangement, and must have been a great
help in providing for the growing family. Three years later he was made
librarian of King’s College, and there he spent his time, reading and
searching and arranging in the dreamy way of an old world librarian. But
life, which is so fearfully unknown, held in it for David Gregorie in
1664 that which was to alter his whole career. By the tragic death of
his brother, who left no children, all the family estates passed to him,
and he became suddenly a rich man. He left Aberdeen, and went to live in
the mansion-house of Kinairdy, with which his name is now always

Few people pass through the remote parish of Marnoch, which lies on the
borders of Banffshire and Aberdeenshire, but those who do are most
certainly rewarded. The Deveron, not so well known as the Dee, still
keeps a charm of loneliness for those who love her, and the burns are
browner than in the southland. By such a burn was Kinairdy built, on a
little promontory where the stream joins the Deveron. When I asked to
see Kinairdy, I was told ‘There’s nothing to see there, only the old
tower down by the river,’ but the old tower was enough for me, and
packed full of memories. To this old house it was that David Gregorie
took his wife and children in 1664. We get occasional glimpses of him as
he passes about the country, at one time laughed at by his neighbours
for his total ignorance of farming, while at another, in a case of
illness, they would eagerly wait for his coming, with a feeling as if
life and death were in his hands. Sometimes no doubt it was so, and to
rich and poor alike he would go, giving his advice gratuitously for the
love of doctoring, and because he was benevolent.

This medical skill of his stood him in good stead on one occasion, when
a deputation of ministers called upon him to answer for himself on the
charge of being a wizard. There were dread stories abroad concerning
him, how, by having sold his soul to the Devil, he was able to foretell
the weather (what a thing to sell your soul for in Scotland!) how, after
days of sunshine, he could predict rain and sure enough the rain would
come, and he might make it go on raining for weeks through his
intercourse with the powers of darkness. Poor Gregorie, face to face
with his accusers, went through the little crowd of his children, and
brought in the familiar spirit, which was only a barometer, tried to
explain how it worked, asked them to examine it (which I do not believe
any of them would do), and won them over to his side by his sheer
lovableness. After all, who was to doctor them with the skill of David
Gregorie if he were burned for a wizard? So the kind doctor was left to
his home and his work. The ministers did not understand his defence, but
there was not one of them who could not remember how, with some
well-chosen simple, he had healed one of their dear ones in the hour of

As his sons and daughters grew up, Gregorie found it more and more
impossible to get the quiet which he so much wanted for his work. His
patients and his children between them were taking up all his leisure.
In these circumstances he determined to rearrange his hours. He retired
early to bed, and rising about two in the morning, worked for a few
hours in the stillness of the night. When that was over, he went to
sleep till he felt rested. If these nocturnal habits were known to the
deputation that waited upon him, there was some excuse for their fears.
What more alarming than the shadows in the room! The midnight crucible
and the sulphurous smell were not there, but it must be admitted that
the Laird of Kinairdy loved the hours of darkness better than the day.

David Gregorie had twenty-nine children. Fifteen of them were the
children of his first wife, and fourteen the children of his second.
Nine of them died as quite little babies, but twenty grew to be older;
and so, though everyone says, that it was remarkable for Kinairdy to
have three sons professors of mathematics, it must be allowed that he
had a most unusual number of children to choose from!

In the pedigree of the family of Gregorie in Mr Philip Spencer Gregory’s
book, from which the table of the professors is for the most part taken,
it is seen that David, Professor of Mathematics in Edinburgh, and later
of Astronomy in Oxford, Isabel, the grandmother of Professor Innes of
Aberdeen, and James, Professor of Mathematics at St Andrews and
Edinburgh, were the children of the first marriage; while Margaret, the
mother of Thomas Reid, and Charles, Professor of Mathematics in St
Andrews, were of the second marriage.

Jean Walker was probably a cleverer woman than Isabel Gordon, Gregorie’s
second wife. In the first place she converted her husband to Episcopacy
and Toryism, and secondly, her son David was much the most brilliant of
the Kinairdy children. To him it was, when he was working as Savilian
professor at Oxford, that old Kinairdy confided a model of an improved
cannon, which in his enthusiasm to improve the munitions of war, he had
designed in his peaceful home by the Deveron. His son, who thought it
most ingenious, showed it to Sir Isaac Newton, and the great philosopher
evidently agreed with him; but to invent an instrument, the only object
of which was to kill better than any cannon in use, seemed to him a
fearful abuse of ingenuity. The horrors of Marlborough’s wars, where men
were slaughtered by the thousand, were they not enough as it was? Who
could deserve mercy from his Maker if he were to bid god-speed to such a
terrible machine? Sir Isaac asked the professor to destroy the model,
which he did, and the little toy which may have been a gatling gun, for
aught we know, was broken in pieces.

Old David Gregorie, who had been preparing to join the allies in
Flanders, to see his cannon in use, bore his disappointment most
sweetly. Perhaps Newton was right, he thought, for although he had meant
to help his fellow-countrymen, the invention would soon be known to the
enemy, and the Gregorie gun be levelled against his compatriots.

There seems to be something almost pitiful about the end of David
Gregorie’s life. Kinairdy was made over to his son, the Savilian
professor at Oxford, the sweet old house forsaken, the rooms in which
such merry life had been lived, deserted, and the flowers from which the
gentle herbalist had drawn so many healing virtues, left to die. It
would be best to think that he returned to Aberdeen at the call of
King’s College, which ‘Beautified with bells within, without decked with
a diadem,’ is said to ring her sons back to her before they die. But
there were probably other reasons, and more potent ones. His children
had to be provided for, and his wife, shrewd and not poetical (or else
how could she have been a Hanoverian?) thought of all that her brother,
the Provost of Aberdeen, had in his power, and she knew he could do much
and would do much for her children, so they set up house once more in
the old town of Aberdeen.

In 1715 comes another turmoil, a flitting, almost a flight across the
North Sea to Holland, to be out of the difficulties of conflicting hopes
and fears, to be out of the country, to take at least no part against
the Stuarts, whom we suspect Kinairdy of loving in his secret heart.
Likely enough they may have offered him bribes, and a title in the
coming kingdom, but there was another counsellor nearer and dearer to
him, and with her and his children he sought the shelter of a foreign
land. Two or three years passed before they returned to Scotland. They
were content to wait till the storm was past. When they came back
Gregorie’s life was nearly over. He died in 1720, an old man of

               ‘And in his story still remains
               A distant memory of life’s loss and gains,
               A starlit picture of his joy and pains.’

A visit to his widow, who was Thomas Reid’s grandmother was described by
her grandson in after years in a letter to James Gregory, Professor of
Medicine in Edinburgh. ‘I found her,’ he says, ‘old and bedridden, but I
never saw a more ladylike woman. I was now and then called into her
room, when she sat upon her bed, or entertained me to sweetmeats and
grave advices. Her daughters, who visited her, as well as one who lived
with her, treated her as if she had been of superior rank, and indeed
her appearance and manner commanded respect. She and all her children
were zealous presbyterians, the first wife’s children were Tories and

But to return to what interests us about David Gregorie of Kinairdy, in
connection with his many professorial sons and other kindred, he was a
great lover of science, and a worker to whom all scientific matter came
home to stay. His mathematical and mechanical gifts, great as they
were—and we know he was far advanced in meteorological studies—were not
to be compared with the power which he had, and which now appears for
the first time in the Gregorie family—the inborn gift of doctoring. He
had no training except what he gave himself, but he could no more help
being a physician, than his brother Professor James could help his
incessant work at mathematics. David and James Gregorie were the
children of their mother far more than of their father; who, good as he
probably was, is, we must confess, just a little dull. Yes, Janet
Anderson, you have lived again for us in your sons!

                              CHAPTER III

                       JAMES GREGORIE, 1638–1675

              ‘He learned the art
              In Padua far beyond the sea.’

                                      —SCOTT, _Lay_ 1, xi.

James Gregorie, the third son of the minister of Drumoak, was certainly
the cleverest member of that family. He was so clever that no one had
any time to tell anything about him, except his achievements in pure
mathematics and in the science of optics; and indeed from his earliest
days his love for mathematics was such, that his pretty mother unwilling
to wait till her boy was able to go to school taught him herself all she
knew of geometry, sending him away when the time came to the Grammar
School of Aberdeen already far ahead of his class. He studied at
Marischal College, and took his degree (laureated is the pleasant
Scottish word) along with Gilbert Burnet, the readable if imaginative
historian, with whom likely enough he did not find much in common,
representing as they almost did fact and fancy. Now their portraits hang
side by side in the Picture Gallery—Gregorie’s grey and grave and stern,
with an indication of what he was in the mathematical globe by his
side—Burnet’s less severe, satisfied with himself, and a most prosperous

After the graduation James Gregorie gave himself up to his studies, and
before he was twenty-four made his great discovery of the Reflecting
Telescope. It was not a chance discovery, for indeed he only described,
and never saw put together, the telescope which bears his name. Anyone
can see them nowadays, for they are still used, and the beautiful one
set up by James Short in Edinburgh, is as clear as the day it was made,
and is not used now, only because a commoner one can do the work which
it did for so many years in the Royal Observatory. To the uninitiated it
has a great merit, for things present themselves through it as they
appear to the naked eye, and not upside down as is the case with most of
the great telescopes.

In 1663, his book entitled _Optica Promota_, which contained a
description of his telescope, was published in London, and thither
Gregorie went, hoping that by the assistance of a practical workman he
might realise his ideal.

His book had been much read by mathematicians, and amongst others by
John Collins, the Secretary to the Royal Society. We can picture then
the mutual pleasure with which these two men met. It was in an alehouse,
where possibly the jolly tavern keeper took the Aberdonian through the
fumes of his stuffy parlour, and presented him to Master Collins as a
likely friend for him; anyway, this was the beginning of a life-long
friendship, and Collins, who had realised at once what a possibility lay
in the proposed reflecting telescope, determined to have a glass made on
the principles which Gregorie had suggested in his book. With this
object in view, he took his new Scottish friend to the most skilled
glass-grinder in London, but, alas! in vain. Mr Reeves could not
overcome the difficulty of obtaining conoidal reflectors, but to the
great mathematicians of that day, and it was a day of giants, the
discovery was magnificent, and from the hands of astronomy’s master
craftsman, the reflecting telescope emerged in 1668 in a more beautiful
form, as Newton’s telescope.

Before Gregorie’s time, the telescopes in England were many of them
immensely long, going up even to three hundred feet, and at this length
they were hardly available for scanning the heavens. The new reflector
brought the size down to six or nine feet, and the idea was so
ingenious, that it made Gregorie famous, and what was more, opened the
door for him to friendship with Newton and Collins, to acknowledgment as
an original worker by Huygens, and awakened in the Father of the
Catholic Church an apprehension that one Gregorie, a Scot and a heretic,
might come to deserve the spiritual blight which he is empowered to give
in placing a book on the Index! It was not so very long before, that
Galileo—an earlier maker of telescopes—had been accused by the learned
scribes and pharisees of his day, of magic. ‘Oh, my dear Kepler,’ says
Galileo to his brother astronomer in one of his most amusing letters,
‘how I wish that we could have one hearty laugh together! Here at Padua
is the principal professor of philosophy, whom I have repeatedly and
earnestly requested to look at the moon and planets through my glass,
which he pertinaciously refuses to do. Why are you not here? What shouts
of laughter we should have at this glorious folly, and to hear the
professor of philosophy in Pisa labouring before the Grand Duke with
logical arguments, as with magical incantations, to charm the new
planets out of the sky!’ It is well that Galileo laughed at this stage
of his life; when he fell into the hands of the Inquisition it became no
laughing matter, and even after he had renounced his views, he was
subjected to many griefs, and to a long incarceration in an Italian

In the fifty years which intervened between Galileo and James Gregorie,
Louis, the great monarch of France, had taken science under his care, so
the Inquisition was no longer available as a means of preventing the
spread of original thought, and Gregorie, unsuspecting of the pope’s
attitude towards him, went to very Padua itself, and stayed there for
three years.

Padua, with its still colonnades and drowsy population, is visited now,
not in the eager search for learning, but because of the pale frescoes
with which Giotto had gifted it long before Gregorie was there, but in
the seventeenth century, what other attractions drew men thither! Then
such men as Riccioli, Manfredi and De Angelis were drawing the erudite
from far and near to sit at their feet. Such men as Manfredi and De
Angelis, who were they? Alas! they, the great mathematical champions of
their day, have passed into oblivion, and are only remembered now, even
in Padua, by the work of the masons who carved their names on the walls
of the University.

                 ‘In thine halls the lamp of learning
                 Padua, now no more is burning;
                 Like a meteor, whose wild way
                 Is lost over the grave of day,
                 It gleams betrayed and to betray:
                 Once remotest nations came
                 To adore that sacred flame,
                 When it lit not many a hearth
                 On this cold and gloomy earth;
                 Now new fires from Antique light
                 Spring beneath the wide world’s might:
                 But their spark lies dead in thee,
                 Trampled out by tyranny.’

As for Gregorie, he was at variance with Riccioli, De Angelis and
Manfredi, and though we have only negative evidence, we hope that he was
at one with the other great teachers of his time in Italy. _Optica
Promota_ had been much read on the Continent, and there the suggestion
which he made that the solar parallax might be determined by the transit
of Venus and Mercury had been accepted, and till a few years ago it was
the method employed in finding out the distance of the sun. But after
all, the most beautiful piece of Gregorie’s work was his telescope. ‘It
consists of a parabolic concave speculum with a hole in its centre,
having near its focus a small elliptic concave speculum. The image
formed by the large parabolic speculum is received by the small
elliptical one, and reflected through the aperture in the former upon a
lens which magnifies it.’

In Padua his work took a more purely mathematical turn, and resulted in
a book ‘pursuing a hint suggested by his own thoughts,’ of which he had
only a few copies printed. It was entitled _Vera Circuli et Hyperboles
Quadratura_, and Montucla in writing of it says that the title is
misleading, and that the author does not claim, except approximately,
through his infinite converging series to find the square of a circle or
hyperbola. Collins, to whom a copy was sent, read part of it before the
Royal Society. Lord Brouncker and Dr Wallis were enthusiastic in its
praise, and under such encouragement Gregorie published it along with
some fresh matter under the title of _Geometriae Pars Universalis
inservieus Quantitatum Curvarum Transmutationi et Mensurae_. The book
came out in Padua with the permission of the State of Venice, and was a
great success. Before its publication the Royal Society showed their
appreciation of it by making Gregorie a Fellow.

This was in January 1668; in March he was still in Padua, but in all the
confusion of departure, and not long after he returned to Scotland, and
back to his much loved Aberdeenshire, where happiness was awaiting him
on all sides. There was Kinairdy to visit with its many charms, and
there was Aberdeen, and at Elrick there was a cousin who was after all,
it is easy to guess, the end of his journey. This was Mary Burnet, the
widow of John Burnet, who to his great joy consented to become his wife,
and was married to him in 1669.

The astronomer found love-making dreadfully time-consuming, and vaguely
regretted it. You see, it was apt to interrupt his correspondence with
Huygens and Halley, with Newton and Collins, with Dr Wallis and Lord
Brouncker. Here is a pathetic letter from him written in the early part
of the year to one of his mathematical correspondents—‘I have several
things in my head as yet only committed to memory, neither can I dispose
of myself to write them in order and method till I have my mind free
from other cares.’

His wife was only twenty-three, although this was her second marriage,
and even when after Mr Gregorie’s death she married Mr Ædis, she was
still young and very beautiful. A rare piece of her work remains in the
tapestries which adorn the Magistrates’ Gallery in St Nicholas Church in
Aberdeen. Susannah and Jephtha’s daughter were her subjects, and there
they are still, looking out of their panels, from the midst of their
beautiful blue and green landscapes, with the rigid uncertainty of
tapestry portraits. Bailie Burnet would have been proud if he could have
foreseen what a combination of ecclesiastical and civic honour was to
fall to his wife’s needlework.

Mrs Gregorie’s father, George Jameson the artist, drew the pictures for
her. Walpole called him the ‘Van Dyck of Scotland,’ though it is
difficult to know why, as there is really no resemblance in their work,
but at least Jameson and Van Dyck were friends in Rubens’ studio, and
the kindly appreciation of his fellow-citizens has remembered and
repeated the phrase.

In 1670, James Gregorie was appointed to the Chair of Mathematics in St
Andrews, where he had a successful if sometimes vexed life. His duties
were to deliver two lectures a week, and to answer any mathematical
questions that might be set before him. ‘I am now much taken up,’ he
writes in May, 1671, ‘and have been so all this winter by-past, both
with my public lectures, which I have twice a week, and resolving
doubts, which some gentlemen and scholars propose to me. This I must
comply with, nevertheless that I am often troubled with great
impertinences, all persons here being ignorant of these things to
admiration. These things do so hinder me, that I have but little time to
spend on these studies my genius leads me to.’

He lived near the beautiful cathedral and almost under the shadow of St
Regulus, and there his name is still remembered in Gregorie’s Lane and
Gregorie’s Place. He worked in the long, many-windowed library, where
the clock which he used is still at work, and where it has been keeping
time these two hundred years, since Huygens, who invented the use of the
pendulum in clocks, and Gregorie himself were laid at rest.

Huygens and Gregorie had a long feud about his Paduan book. Its faults
as the Dutchman thought were lack of ‘distinguished perspicuity’ and
intricacy in its invention. But Huygens must have lived to regret his
criticisms, however well founded they were, for with a sudden burst of
the M’Gregor spirit, Professor James sent forth a volley of answers, his
official statements through the medium of the Philosophical
Transactions, and his unofficial through his many letters. Neither his
great opponent, nor his great opponent’s allies were spared. ‘I am not
yet so much a Christian as to help those who hurt me. I do not know
(neither do I desire to know) who calleth in that preface, Hugenius his
animadversions of November 12th 1668, judicious, but I would earnestly
desire that he would particularize (if he be not an ignorant) in what my
answer, which is contradictory to Hugenius his animadversions is faulty;
for in geometrical matters, if anything be judicious its contradictory
must be nonsense. I do not know what need there was for an apology for
inserting my answer, but to compliment Hugenius, and violently (if it be
possible) to bear down the truth. I imagined such actions below the
meanest member of the Royal Society, however, I hope I may have
permission to call to an account in print the penners of that Preface.’
The account was never called for, because Newton in the meantime, gave
the simpler solution, which Gregorie had been declaring an
impossibility, but it must be remembered that Gregorie’s method although
almost impossible to any but the most clear mathematical mind, was easy
to him and was correct as far as it went. Can anyone help loving
Huygens, even though they know no more of him than what is seen in his
intercourse with Gregorie? What graciousness and kindness was returned
in exchange for the thunderous treatment he received! Sick, as he
thought he was unto death, he suggested Gregorie as a fit successor to
him in the favour of Louis XIV., and we find his father, who was
secretary to the Prince of Orange and a poet—the poet of the
garden—similarly occupied, trying to influence the great folk with whom
he came in contact to further Gregorie’s interests. But in spite of the
recommendation of the Académie des Sciences, the Royal Society, and such
friends as he had at court, Gregorie never received any Royal patronage;
the want of which he took very calmly and with a great deal of broad
good sense, never having expected any other result. ‘I have had
sufficient experience in the uncertainty of things of that nature before
now, which maketh me since I came to Scotland, how mean and despicable
so ever my condition be, to rest contented and satisfy myself with that,
that I am at home in a settled condition by which I can live. I have
known many learned men far above me upon every account with whom I would
not change my condition.’

In 1669 Gregorie’s books were suppressed in Italy, which came as a shock
to him, and was all the more grievous because it deprived him of many of
his most interested readers—and controversialists! Scotland, however,
supplied the deficiency wonderfully well. There was a professor in
Glasgow called George Sinclair, a mathematician, and a demonologist of
great repute, who wrote a book on Hydrostatics. It was quite clever, and
may have been more interesting to the general reader than books on
Hydrostatics usually are, because of an appendix in which some strange
things were included, amongst others, A Short History of Coal and the
Story of the Devil of Glenluce. The humour of the combination was too
much for Gregorie, and under the name of Patrick Mathers, Arch-Bedal to
the University of St. Andrews, he wrote an answer to the scientific part
of the Hydrostatics, which he called ‘The Great and New Art of Weighing
Vanity.’ Witty, scurrilous, easily written and easily read, the book was
a great source of merriment both to Gregorie and his colleagues at St.
Andrews, and it raised a perfect hurricane in Glasgow. The very name was
an impertinent play on the title of his antagonist’s former book _Ars
nova et Magna_ and the fact that Professor Sinclair was no mean
adversary added zest to the battle, which continued many days. But
Professor Sinclair had prepared an ill reception for his work by the
edict which he had had printed and sent abroad to persuade people to
order copies of it:—

‘Forasmuch as there is a Book of Natural and Experimental Philosophy in
English, to be printed within these four months, or thereabouts; wherein
are contained many excellent and new purposes: As first, Thirty
Theorems, the most part whereof were never so much as heard of before:’
(Alas! poor professor what a beginning! And is the ending any better!)
‘and an excellent way for knowing, by the eye, the Sun or Moon’s motion
in a second of time, which is the 3600 part of an hour, and many others
of different kinds, useful and pleasant. These are therefore to give
notice to all ingenious persons, who are lovers of Learning, that if
they shall be pleased to advance Gedeon Shaw, Stationer at the foot of
the Ladies Steps, three pounds Scots, for defraying the present charges
of the said Book, they shall have from him, betwixt the date hereof and
April next to come, one of the Copies: And for their further security in
the interim the Author’s obligation for performing the same.’

‘Which so exposed to my masters the vanity of that confident man, that
they were forced plainly to let him know their mind,’ wrote the
Arch-Bedal, and some of his own sentiments were expressed in a letter
which he afterwards quoted in the Preface to his book _The Great and New
Art_ ‘Sir,—I admire exceedingly the forwardness of your humor (I will
call it no worse) in your last to ——: he is a person not concerned in
you or in your books, neither will he ignorantly commend anything, as it
seems ye expected he should have done, when ye sent him these papers. Ye
might have known long ago that he had no veneration for what ye had
formerly published, for he made no secret of his mind, when he was put
to it. Ye may mistake him, if ye think that any by-end will cause him
speak what he thinks not: nevertheless he delivered your commission, and
was willing to be unconcerned, expecting their answer. They pressed him
to know his judgment of your last piece: he told ingenuously the truth,
that there was none of them had less esteem for it than himself. He
hopes you are so much a Christian, that ye will not be offended with him
for speaking what he thought when he had a call to it; and yet albeit ye
seem to favour him more than others, he hath ground to look upon himself
as one of the sophistical rabble, for they only are such who condemn
anything ye do, the rest of the University continuing always learned
persons. It is to no purpose to apologize for themselves, ye take all
for granted, which ye have heard: I shall not put you to the pains of
proving it; yet it seems ye would hardly have believed it so easily, had
not your conscience told you, that they had some reason for their
judgement, which really was this following: That they see nothing in
your last piece, new and great (albeit it be _Ars nova et Magna_) save
errors and nonsense; as your demonstrations of the pendulum, your _Nihil
spatiale_, your _Gravitas circularis_, and _horizontalis_, your question
“Whether or no a body may be condensed in a point?” etc., too many to
fill several letters: for ye must not call experiments new inventions,
otherwise ye are making new inventions every day, neither must ye call
different explications new inventions, else the same thing might be
invented by almost every Writer. I admire how ye question the R.
Society; for I desire to know one point of doctrine, which ye or they
either pretend to, concerning the weight of the air, the spring of it,
or anything else in your book, save mistakes, which was not received by
all mathematicians, and the most learned of Philosophers many years
before any of you put pen to paper. Ye have been at much pains to prove
that by experiment, which all the learned already grant, and some have
demonstrat _à priori_ from the principles of Geometry and Staticks, and
many _à posteriori_ from experience if sense may be called a
demonstration: yet ye are the only man who produceth the _Ars Nova et
Magna_ when all others are out of fashion. But more to your
commendation, it seems ye do all these wonders by Magick; for ye have
the ordinair principles of none of these Sciences: Euclid is as much a
stranger as reason in all your Books: and for this _Perque Mathematicos
semper celebrabere fastus_! At last ye come to prove a new doctrine,
which before now was near 2000 years old, with thirty new Theorems which
must not be named because they are of such a tender and delicat
complexion that the very naming of them will make them old. There are
also many other excellent things, which will be all new when they were
but printed yesterday. It is like some of these dayes, we may have an
_Ars Nova et Magna_, to prove that a piece of lead is heavier than so
much cork. I know not wherefore ye undervalue any man, because he hath
not as great esteem for your notions as yourself: Have not we as much
freedom to speak our mind of you, as ye have to write yours of the R.
Society and the University of Glasgow? The greatest hurt ye can do us,
is to make Dromo famulus one of our Principals. I think it not strange
that ye using only demonstrations of sense, should admire the force of
our imagination, in affirming no method of Dyving so good as that of
Melgin. I am sure that the man Dyving for a continual time, if he be not
also of your invention, must breath of the air; and this air must either
be kept close by itself, as in Melgin’s way, or communicat with the air
above. If the latter be your invention, I doubt ye must also have some
Chirurgical invention to apply to your Dyver at his return, if he go to
any great deepness: If the former, it is the same with Melgin’s; and you
cannot neither any man else help it, but in circumstances (which alters
not the method) and perchance to little purpose. As for Archimedes, I am
sure he wanted no necessary requisit to prove the weight of water in its
own Element. I know not what else ye intend to prove: Always I am as
sure that he had two great requisits, which ye want; to wit, Geometry
and a sound head. As to what ye write concerning the imperfection of
Sciences; the scientifical part of Geography is so perfected, that there
is nothing required for the projection, description and situation of a
place, which cannot be done and demonstrat. The scientifical part of
opticks is so perfected, that nothing can be required for the perfection
of sight, which is not demonstrat, albeit men’s hands cannot reach it;
and these being the objects of the fore-said Sciences, your authority
shall not persuade me that it is altogether improper to call them
perfect. In the Hydrostaticks, it were no hard matter to branch out all
the experiments that can be made into several Classes, of which the
event and reason might perfectly be deduced, as consectaries (I speak
not here of long deductions, as ye seem to rant) to something already
published: if it be noticed but rudely (as ye, not understanding what
niceties of proportion means, must do) only considering Motion and Rest:
And I believe there is none ignorant of this who understands what is
written in this Science. Upon this account writing to you, I might call
it perfect, albeit I know there are many things relating to the
proportion and acceleration of the motions of fluids, which are yet
unknown, and may perchance still be. Ye shal not think that I speak of
you without ground; (for in your _Ars Magna et Nova_, ye bring in your
great attempts for a perpetual motion; all which a novice of eight days
standing in Hydrostaticks would laugh at). I do not question that this
age hath many advantages beyond former ages; but I know not any of them,
it is beholden to you for: only I admire your simplicity in this.
Astronomers seek always to have the greatest intervals betwixt
Observations, and ye talk that ye will give an excellent way for
observing the Sun or Moon’s motion for a second of time; that is to say,
as if it were a great matter that there is but a second of time betwixt
your Observations. I wonder ye tell me the eye should be added; for the
invention had been much greater had that been away. I do confess that a
good History of Nature is absolutely the most requisite thing for
learning; but it is not like that you are fit for that purpose, who so
surely believe the miracles of the West, as to put them in print; and
record the simple meridian altitudes of Comets, and that only to halfs
of degrees or little more as worth noticing. However, if ye do this last
part concerning Coal-sinks well, and all the rest be but an _Ars Magna
et Nova_, ye may come to have the repute of being more fit to be a
Collier than a Scholar. Ye might have let alone the precarious
principles and imaginary worldes of Des Cartes, until your new
inventions had made them so: For I must tell you Des Cartes valued the
History of Nature, as much as any experimental Philosopher ever did, and
perfected it more with judicious experiments, than ye will by all
appearance do in ten ages. Ye are exceedingly misinformed, if ye have
heard that any here have prejudice or envy against you; for there is
none here speaks of you but with pity and commiseration: neither heard I
ever of any man who commended you for what he understood. As for your
Latin Sentences, if they be not applied to yourself, I understand them
not; for here we are printing no books, we are not sending tickets
throughout the country to tell the wonders we can do: We are going about
the imployments we are called to, and strive to give a reason for what
we say. Where then are our _Doli et fallaciae, tabulae et testes,
sapientia ad quam putamus nos pervenisse_? etc. In these things ye
publish, ye know there is no Sophistry but clear evidence: If ye had
done such great matters in _Universale et ens rationis_, ye might have
had a shift; but here ye must either particularize your inventions, or
otherwise demonstrat yourself derogatory to the credit of the Nation:
For what else is it to confound R. Societies and Universities with _Ars
Magna et Nova_; and yet when ye were put to it in print, to show your
inventions, all ye could say was, that the publisher should have
reflected upon the wisdom of the Creator, etc., so that the Poet said
well of Democritus, etc., of which I understand not the sense, except ye
make yourself the summus vir, and us all the Verveces. I suppose this
may be the great credit that ye say ye have labored to gain to your
nation; to wit to get us all the honrable title of Wedders. No more at
present, but hoping this free and ingenuous Letter shal have a good
effect upon you (for I am half perswaded, that the flattery of scorners
and ignorants, hath brought you to this height of imaginary learning)
and that when ye come to yourself ye will thank me for my pains.

                                            I rest your humble servant.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

To this letter Professor Sinclair in his turn very pertinently remarked,
that they should not criticise his book till they had seen it, and the
St Andrews’ teachers were convinced. But unfortunately in the address to
the reader with which Professor Sinclair’s _Hydrostaticks_ commences, he
gave expression to his wounded feelings.

‘When this Book was first committed to the press, I sent an intimation
thereof to some of my friends, for their encouragement to it, a practice
now common, and commendable which hath not wanted a considerable
success, as witness the respect of many worthy persons, to whom I am
oblidged. But there is a generation, that rather than they will
encourage any new invention, set themselves by all means to detract from
it and the authors of it; so grieved are they, that ought of this kind
should fall into the hands of any, but their own. And therefore if the
Author shall give but the title of New to his invention, though never so
deservedly, they fly presently in his throat, like so many Wild-Catts,
studying either to ridicule his work altogether—a trade that usually,
the person of weakest abilities, and most empty heads, are better at,
than learned men; like those schollars, who being nimble in putting
tricks, and impostures upon their Condisciples, were dolts, as to their
lesson, or else fall upon it with such snarling and carping as discover
neither ingenuity, nor ingeniousness, but a sore sickness called,

                  *       *       *       *       *

Now, indeed, now was the Arch-Bedal justified, and so in hot haste he
wrote that stinging book, which purported to be by Patrick Mathers (the
Arch-Bedal to the University of St Andrews), but was really by Gregorie,
a fact which its erudition must have made clear to Sinclair, even before
that kind person, the mutual friend, had confided the fact to him.

The curious thing was that with all his desire to heap ridicule upon his
adversary, Gregorie only touched upon what would naturally now appear
the most vulnerable point, the passage about the Devil of Glenluce.

In the meantime the clear air of St Andrews was daily suggesting to him
how desirable a place it was in which to teach Astronomy. At night, when
he walked over the links, the stars were so clear above him, and the
hills so inconsiderable on the horizon, that he felt that nowhere in
Scotland was there a site more suitable for an observatory. His idea was
cordially agreed to by the University, and sufficient money had been
collected by 1673 to admit of the authorities commencing their
arrangements. Accordingly Gregorie was commissioned to proceed to the
selection of the instruments needed for the carrying out of his plan.

                  *       *       *       *       *

‘Commission, University of St Andrews, to Mr James Gregorie, Professor
of Mathematics.

                                                      ‘_10th June 1673._

‘Be it knowen to all men be these presents, Us, Rector, Principals,
Doctors, and Professors of the University of St Andrews, under
subscribing: For as much as we have formerly taken to our serious
consideration the great detriment and losse this ancient seminary hath
been at in times past, and doeth yet sustain by the want of such proper
and necessary instruments and utensils as may serve and conduce for the
better, more solemn and famous profession, teaching and improving of
Naturall Philosophy and the mathematical sciences, and especially for
making such observation on the Heavens and other bodys of this Universe
(as easily may be by such helps, with the great advantage of the pure
air and other accommodation of this place) whereby we may be enabled to
keep correspondence with learned and inquisitive persones in solide
philosophy everywhere, for the forsaid effect: And having purposed (to
be forthcoming to our duty and the encouragement of others) to set as
effectually as may be about this laudable and necessary work, for
providing the forsaids instruments of all kynds, ane observatory, and
all other accoutrements requisite for the improvement of the forsaid
sciences, the benefite, advantage and delight of youth to be trained up
here, the honour of the Kingdom, the reputation of our benefactors, and
the lustre and splendour of the University: Did therefore commissionat
some of our number to make application unto all persons, whom they knew
to be encouragers of learning, and patrons to the professors thereof,
representing unto them that we were instantly upon the effectuating of
the forsaid designe, And to that end to crave their affections and such
other encouragements for the said work as they please to bestow; And to
report to us their diligence therein, with the names of our benefactors,
to the effect this University may record them, and endeavour to make
such respectfull resentments to them and their posterity, as becomes:
giving them power to do every other thing proper and requisit in the
said affair; They being always answerable and accountable to us anent
the premises. And whereas this our laudable designe hath already met
with such considerable encouragement from persons of all ranks, that we
have ordered Mr James Gregorie, professor of the Mathematical Sciences
here to goe to London, and there to provide so far as the money already
received from our Benefactors will reach, such instruments and utensils
as he with advice of other skilful persons shall judge most necessary
and usefull for the above mentioned design: Like as be these presents we
the under subscribers all with one consent constitute the said Mr James
our factor for the effect forsaid, Giving and granting him our full
power and ample commission for transacting and buying the forsaid
instruments in so far as the money forsaid will extend, or as he shall
be further furnished by us upon what is to come upon our letters and
precepts for that effect: Obliging ourselves to ratifye and approve what
the said Mr James should doe in this our commission directed to him by
us during his residence there, and to acquit and relieve him of all
prejudice he may incur and sustain in execution of this our commission,
or any other commission sent by us to him during his residence there:
And to take notice of the fabric and form of the most competent
observatorye that ours here intended may be builded with all its
advantages: And also considering the intended work to be of such moment
and expenss, that we ar not able to accomplish it with the contributions
of these only who have already listed themselves encouragers of it;
Therefore we also by these presents do nominat and constitute the said
Mr James Gregorie our factor and special mandator for making application
unto all whom he knows to be favourers of learning for their concurrence
unto the advancement of the forsd work with full power to do everything
proper and requisit in this affair, as others formerly employed therein
have been impowered by us to do, He being in like manner accountable to
us anent the premisses. As witness these presents, written by William
Sanders, one of our number, clerk for the time, and subscrived with our
hands in the University Hall, on the 10th day of June J. m. vjc. seventy
three years.

         D. Will Comrie, _Provost of St Marie’s Colledge_
         Ja. Rymer
         Edw. Thomson
         Ja. Strachane
         Jo. Comrie
         And. Bruce, _Rector_.
         D. Geo. Weemss, _Provost of the Old Colledge_.
         D. James Weemss, _Principal of St Leonard’s Colledge_.
         Jo. Hay.
         Alex^r. Grant.
         Alex^r. Skene.
         W. Sanders.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

Professor James Gregorie in his search for funds went to Aberdeen, and
there he achieved what was quite the most wonderful success of his
life—he got a church-door collection in all the churches in Aberdeen to
provide for astronomical instruments at St Andrews. Rob Roy need never
have taken to the high hand, if he had a tongue at all as persuasive as
his great cousin!

Here are the Burgh Records for 15th October 1673.[1]

Footnote 1:

  Ane collection to be at the Kirk Dores for the Observatorie at Saint

                  *       *       *       *       *

                                                      ‘_15th Oct. 1673._

‘The said day, Master Alexander Skene, ane of the regents of Saint
Andrewes signifying to the councell that Master James Gregorie,
professor of Mathematics ther, that ther was ane considerable work
intendit in that airt, which before being brought to ane perfectione
woulde stand considerable moneyes and that severall incorporations and
Universities hade contribuit therto, and seeing the said professor was
ane town’s man heir, it was expectit by all concernit, and humblie
desyrit be him, that this burgh wold contribute to the furtherance of
the said work: All which the councell considering, finds it incumbent
upon them not to be wanting for advancement of the said effair in so far
as they are lyable, and therfor appoynts ane collectione to be at the
Kirk dores ... the nixt or subsequent Lord’s day for the forsaid

                  *       *       *       *       *

Things were going very smoothly—success was absolutely fawning upon
Gregorie—he was getting money as he wanted it, and the instruments he
had bought were entirely to his mind; but on his return from London,
where he had gone to fulfil his commission, he found everything changed,
and his colleagues, who had once been so kindly to him, had ceased to
regard him as their friend. He was in the curious situation of being
paid by all three colleges, and that in itself would make his position
somewhat difficult, but this difficulty had always existed. The real
cause of dissension was that in his absence the students had been making
popular demonstrations against some of the other teachers, and citing
his lectures as opposed to the theories propounded by them. It was most
uncomfortable for everybody, and everyone in authority determined to
make it most uncomfortable of all for Gregorie. His salary was
suspended, the university servants were told to take no notice of his
orders, and the students were commanded not to attend his lectures, for
certainly the mathematics as taught by him had turned their heads, they
had shown distinct signs of madness. The attitude of the professors was
not unlike that taken up by the country doctor, who when asked to fill
in a form, certifying one of his patients to be insane, put as evidence
observed by himself, ‘he called me a fool!’

In the midst of all the turmoil came a flattering invitation to James
Gregorie to become Professor of Mathematics in Edinburgh University.
After the treatment he had received this was a most blessed chance and
with great joy he left St Andrews, and came to Edinburgh.

The whole story was written to James Fraser, then at Paris:—

                  *       *       *       *       *

‘MUCH HONOURED SIR,—I received some days ago your very obliging letter,
and not long after your arrival at Paris I had another from you, to
which the truth is I was ashamed to answer, the affairs of the St
Andrews Observatory were in such a bad condition, the reason of which
was the prejudice the masters of the University did take at the
mathematics, because some of their scholars finding their courses and
dictates opposed by what they had studied in the mathematics, did mock
at their masters, and deride some of them publicly. After this the
servants of the college got orders not to wait on me or my observations,
my salary was also kept back from me, and scholars of most eminent rank
were violently kept from me, contrary to their own and their parents’
wills, the masters persuading them that their brains were not able to
endure it. These and many other discouragements oblige me to accept of a
call here to the College of Edinburgh, where my salary is here double,
and my encouragements much greater.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

Gregorie left St Andrews somewhat under a cloud, because, as we have
good reason to suppose, he had been teaching Newton’s Philosophy before
the Kingdom of Fife was quite ready for it, and because, too, his
students had more ardour than wisdom in their minds. But in Edinburgh he
had a great reception. The hall where he gave his inaugural address, in
November 1674, was crowded, and he was given perfect freedom in what he
taught. In his observatory he passed many happy hours, and often at
nights he would take his students to look through the telescope at the
stars, to find out belted Saturn and Jupiter with his satellites, which
was not such a nursery affair then as it is now. These phenomena had
only been discovered fifty years before, for let us remember James
Gregorie lived in the days of Charles the Second, and just missed by a
few years being Samuel Rutherfurd’s fellow-citizen in St Andrews.

The last scene in his life comes all too soon, and before he had been a
year in Edinburgh his place was vacant. On an October evening while he
was showing his students the satellites of Jupiter, a sudden blindness
came on, and within a few days everything was over. He probably died of
Bright’s disease.

It seems to us on looking back, as if the active mind had worked too
quickly. Gregorie was only thirty-six, but he had already done a full
life’s work in science. Mengoli, Newton, Huygens, and even Leibnitz (who
for some time claimed Gregorie’s series for his own) have borne witness
to his power. In truth there was something in him that inclined great
men to love him, and his mathematics are so deep that it is only the
master minds who appreciate him. He was a mathematician for

There are many of Gregorie’s letters still extant, and for the pure
pleasure of reading one just as he wrote it, this letter written to the
Rev. Coline Campbell is inserted.

                  *       *       *       *       *

                                            ‘ST ANDREWS, _1. Jan. 1673_.

‘SIR,—I received your of the 23rd of December last, and am glad to have
the occasion to keep a correspondence with such a knowing person as ye
ar. I have not had leasur at this time to satisfie you in your probleme,
being drawn away all this afternoon with necessarie affairs: but with
the nixt I shall doe my endeavour for I expect not to mak the
calculation considerablie short, seing the nature of the question doeth
not suffice it. Our bedal his book against Mr Sinclair is come out
several weeks ago. No more at present, but being in hast and hoping that
ye will be pleased to continue this new correspondence, I rest,

                          ‘Your humble servant,
                                          ‘JAMES GREGORIE.
              ‘for Mr COLINE CAMPBELL.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

His widow and orphans were granted a pension by Charles II. of £40 a
year Scots in recognition of what Gregorie had done in Scotland. No one
could be found suitable to succeed him in the Chair of Mathematics at
Edinburgh. The authorities waited eight years before they made another
appointment; and when the new professor came, he was also a Gregorie, a
nephew of the late professor. His own son, too, held a chair, but that
was in Aberdeen, and he was a professor of medicine.

                               CHAPTER IV

                        DAVID GREGORY, 1661–1708

    ‘Tycho Brahe was also one who used the sword, not to cut into
    flesh and bone, but to build up a plainer way among all the stars
    of heaven.’—HANS ANDERSEN.

David Gregorie was the third son of his father and name-father, the
Laird of Kinairdy. He was born in a house without the port in the Upper
Kirkgate of Aberdeen, where the tradition of his birth lingered, and was
indeed cherished many a year after the boy had grown to manhood, and had
left his grey birthplace for the richer lands of the South.

The boy’s mother was, it may be remembered, Jean Walker, one of the
Orchiston family, and the child was taught from his babyhood loyalty to
the Stuarts and a passionate adherence to the episcopal form of church
government and teaching, which he carried with him to the grave.

His education he began at the Grammar School, of which Robert Skene was
the rector, and afterwards he studied either at Marischal College or
King’s College. It was at the University of Edinburgh, however, where
his uncle had had such a brilliant if short career, that he took his
degree as Master of Arts in 1683. He was even as a student a man whose
life was commented upon. People talked of his studiousness, of his
joyful temper, and still more of his friendship with Dr Archibald
Pitcairne, whose time was coming to make the tongues of Edinburgh wag.
They really were wonderful friends. Pitcairne studied everything from
sheer love of learning. He was educated in turn for the church, the law,
and for medicine, and besides this he made a great excursion into the
higher mathematics at the instigation of his friend. David Gregorie, on
the other hand, was a pure mathematician, all else in his studies giving
way to his love for his dear ‘Celestial Physicks.’ From his uncle,
James, he had inherited a great number of mathematical manuscripts, and
this inheritance was regarded by him with the deepest veneration. Some
day he would edit all these papers, but meantime many happy hours were
spent by these two friends going over the manuscripts. For David
Gregorie there was moreover much to delight in, in every fresh discovery
that came from the hands of Sir Isaac Newton. Soon he was as ardent an
admirer of the philosopher as ever his uncle had been. If he were made a
professor, Gregorie thought, he would admit none of the Cartesian
fallacies, and already his appointment to the Chair of Mathematics was
being discussed. At the age of twenty-two, then, and actually before
David Gregorie had got his A.M. degree, he was appointed to this Chair
in the Edinburgh University, an office which had not been filled up
since his uncle’s death. Lectures had been given by a student called
John Young, but he was only acting as mathematical tutor, filling the
place temporarily, whereas when Gregory was appointed it was as
professor, with a salary of £1000 (Scots).

In December he gave his inaugural address in Latin, on an Analysis of
Geometrical Progress. The lecture has been lost, but a volume of notes
of his usual course of teaching is preserved in the University Library,
and its range is very large. As has already been said, what chiefly
distinguished David Gregorie was his appreciation of Newton’s ideas. It
was his object to bring down the _Principia_ to the average level of
mathematical minds, and both he and his brother James, who held the
corresponding chair at St Andrews, were teaching Newton’s philosophy
before it was taught at Cambridge. ‘It was not long,’ says Whiston,
‘before I with immense pains, but no assistance, set myself with the
utmost zeal to the study of Sir Isaac Newton’s wonderful discoveries in
his _Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica_, one or two of which
lectures I had heard him read in the publick schools, though I
understood them not at all at that time, being indeed greatly excited
thereto by a paper of Dr Gregory’s when he was professor in Scotland;
wherein he had given the most prodigious commendations to that work, as
not only right in all things, but in a manner the effect of a plainly
divine genius, and had already caused several of his scholars to keep
acts, as we call them, upon several branches of the Newtonian
Philosophy, while we at Cambridge, poor wretches, were ignominiously
studying the fictitious hypothesis of the Cartesian.’

Voltaire wrote of Sir Isaac Newton, that when he died he had not more
than twenty followers in his own country; and, even making allowance for
the unfriendly eyes with which the Frenchman regarded his
contemporaries, there was probably some truth in the statement. Whiston
was professor of mathematics at Cambridge, and writing from that
University, where of all places in the world Newton’s doctrines should
have been earliest taught, it is curious that he should have to
acknowledge that he got his inspiration from Scotland.

In 1684 Professor Gregorie produced his first work, which was entitled
_Exercitatio Geometrica de Dimensione Figurarum, sive Specimen Methodi
Generalis [dimetiendi] Quasvis Figuras_. In it he makes much reference
to the speculations of his uncle, to whom he was at least partially
indebted for his materials, and there is little, if any, original work.
The book was not widely read, but it was said to have given ‘a public
proof of his competency to discharge the duties of the important office
to which he had been appointed.’

David Gregorie was appointed in 1683 in the reign of Charles II., but
during his six years in the professoriate many changes had come about.
William and Mary were on the throne, and not unnaturally it was
considered necessary by the new Government that steps should be taken to
ascertain the political opinion of those men to whom was entrusted the
instruction of the youth of the land.

                  *       *       *       *       *

                                        At Edinburgh,

                                                        July iv., MDCXC.

‘The Rolls of Parliament called Act for Visitation of Universities,
Colledges & Schoolls.

‘Our Soveraigne Lord and Lady, the King and Queen’s Majesties and the
three Estates of Parliament considering how necessarie it is for the
advancement of Religion and Learning and for the good of the Church and
peace of the Kingdom that the universities, colledges, and schoolls be
provided and served with pious, able and qualified professors,
principalls, regents, masters, and others bearing office therein well
affected to their Majesties and the established government of Church and
State. Therefore their Majesties with advyce of the said three Estates
of Parliament, doe statute, ordaine, and enact, that from this time
forth, no Professors, Principalls, Regents, Masters, or others bearing
office in any university, colledge, or schooll within this Kingdome be
either admitted or allowed to continue in the exercise of their saids
functions but such as doe acknowledge and profess, and shall subscryve
to the confession of faith ratified and approven by this present
Parliament, and alsoe sweare and subscryve the oath of allegiance to
their Majesties; And withall shall be found to bee of a pious, loyal and
peaceable conversation, and of good and sufficient literature and
abilities for their rexive Imployments, and submitting to the government
of the Church now settled by Law, and albeit it be their Majesties
undoubted right and prerogative to name visitors and cause visite the
forsaid universities, colledges and schoolls, yet at this tyme their
Majesties are pleased to nominate and appoint with advyce and consent
forsaid the persons under named, viz., The Duke of Hamilton, Earle of
Argyle et alii To meet and visite all universities, colledges and
schoolls within this Kingdom, and to take tryall of the present
Professors, Principalls, Regents, Masters and others bearing office
therein according to the qualifications and rules above mentioned, and
such as shall be found to be erroneous, scandalous, negligent,
insufficient, or disaffected to their Majestie’s Government, or who
shall not subscryve the Confession of faith, sweare and subscryve the
oath of allegiance and submitt to the government of the Church now
settled by Law to purge out and remove. As alsoe to consider the
foundations of the saids Universities colledges and schoolls, with the
rents and revenues thereof, and how the same have been administred and
manadged and to sett down such rules and methods for the good
manadgement thereof for hereafter. As likewise for ordering the saids
universities, colledges and schoolls, and the professions and manner of
teaching therein and all things else relateng thereto as they shall
thinke most meet and convenient according to the foundations thereof,
and consistent with the present established government of Church and
State. And to the effect that these presents may be more surely execute.
Their Majesties with advyce forsaid, doe farther Impower the forsaids
persons visitors or their quorum to appoint Committees of such numbers
of their own members as they shall thinke fitt to visite the severall
Universities and Colledges within this Kingdom, with the Schoolls within
the bounds to be designed to them, and that according to such
instructions and injunctions as they shall thinke fitt to give them; And
to the effect that upon report made be the said Committee to the
aforsaid visitors or their quorum they may proceede and conclude
thereupon as they shall see cause; And their Majesties appoints the
forsaids visitors to meet at Edinburgh upon the twenty third day of July
instant for the first dyet of their meeting with power to them to
adjourne and appoint their own meetings to such dayes and places as for
thereafter they shall judge convenient; And this Commission to endure ay
and while their Majesties recall and discharge the same.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

This large commission therefore which was appointed to deal with the
universities and schools in Scotland, met in Edinburgh in the Common
Hall under the presidency of the Lord Provost in July 1690.

The Principal, Alexander Monro, was tried first, and a sentence of
deprivation was passed upon him, as also upon Dr Strachan, Professor of
Divinity. When Gregorie’s turn came, he like those who had gone before
was accused by men of whose names he was kept in ignorance, whose
statements he could but feel were libellous, malicious and false. The
lay portion of the commission were inclined to favour him, and when they
enquired into his conduct as a teacher, he was able to present an
admirable report of his public lessons for three years. At the same time
he would not subscribe to the Confession of Faith, and so it came about
that when he recommenced his lectures in the ensuing month of December,
he did not know whether he was to continue in the possession of his
chair, neither were Dr Archibald Pitcairne nor Lord Tarbat, his constant
supporters in all this time of trial, able absolutely to reassure him on
the point. John Hill Burton, in his chapter on the ecclesiastical
settlements says that ‘Dr Gregorie, the only truly great man among the
Episcopalian professors, was wisely spared.’ But for him the suspense
and anxiety were very tedious, and he was glad when a prospect opened
out before him of quitting the university in which he had been subjected
to so much annoyance.

The opening occurred through the resignation of Dr Bernard, Savilian
Professor of Astronomy in the University of Oxford, to whose chair Dr
Gregorie thought he might aspire. It was of the first importance that he
should receive the support of Sir Isaac Newton in his application, so he
went at once to London to be introduced to him. Sir Isaac was much
pleased with him, and wrote him a testimonial, dated London, July 1691.

                  *       *       *       *       *

‘Being desired by Mr David Gregorie, Mathematics Professor of the
Colledge in Edinburgh to testifie my knowledge of him, and having known
him by his printed Mathematical performances, and by discoursing with
travellers from Scotland, and of late by conversing with him, I do
account him one of the most able and judicious Mathematicians of his age
now living. He is very well skilled in analysis and geometry, both new
and old. He has been conversant in the best writers about astronomy, and
understands that science very well. He is not only acquainted with
books, but his invention in Mathematical things is also good. He has
performed his duty at Edinburgh with credit, as I hear, and advanced the
Mathematicks. He is reputed the greatest Mathematician in Scotland, and
that deservedly, so far as my knowledge reaches, for I esteem him an
ornament to his country, and upon these accounts do recommend him to the
duties of the Astronomy Professor into the place in Oxford now
vacant.—_sic subscribitur_.

                                     IS. NEWTON, _Math. Prof., Cantab._’

                  *       *       *       *       *

Nor did Sir Isaac’s kindness end here, for he wrote a letter to
Flamsteed, the Astronomer Royal, asking for his influence in the
appointment. Flamsteed responded with great kindness, only mentioning
the fact that if his old friend Mr Caswell insisted on standing for the
vacant chair, he would be obliged to support him. In the end of his
letter, Sir Isaac, while mentioning his anxiety to have Flamsteed’s
observations on Jupiter and Saturn for the next twelve or fifteen years,
adds: ‘If you and I live not long enough, Mr Gregorie and Mr Halley are
young men,’ thus indicating that he thought them fit to carry on his

Edmund Halley, who was the other candidate for the professorship of
astronomy, had from a scientific point of view stronger claims to the
appointment. To him the world is indebted for the publication of
Newton’s _Principia_, which Halley undertook at his own expense, seeing
that the Royal Society made difficulties about the money, and that
Newton himself was too poor, and possibly too much engrossed in his
study, to take the burden of it on his own shoulders. But Halley was an
infidel, and this disqualified him in the eyes of the patrons of the
chair. Sir Henry Savile had left his professorships open to candidates
of any Christian Nation ‘if they were of good report and correct
demeanour, eminently skilled in mathematics, possessed of at least a
moderate knowledge of the Greek language, and if they had attained the
age of twenty-six years.’ He had left the election in the hands of the
Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, the Chancellor of the
University, the Bishop of London, the Principal Secretary of State, the
two Chief Justices, the Chief Baron of the Exchequer and the Dean of
Arches. With an electorate composed of such men, Edmund Halley, holding
the views which he acknowledged at that time, had no chance of election.

Whiston in his _Memoir_ says that ‘Bishop Stillingfleet was desired to
recommend him at court, but hearing that he was a sceptick, and a
banterer of religion, he scrupled to be concerned, till his chaplain Mr
Bentley should talk with him about it, which he did. But Mr Halley was
so sincere in his infidelity, that he would not so much as pretend to
believe the Christian religion, though he thereby was likely to lose a

David Gregorie then (or Gregory, as he now began to call himself), with
the support of Sir Isaac Newton, and because of Halley’s religious
views, was appointed professor.

He had entered at Balliol, was incorporated A.M. on the 6th of February
1692, took the degree of M.D., and was subsequently admitted to the

In the previous year he had been made a Fellow of the Royal Society, and
it was not long before he began to contribute to their volumes. He sent
in a beautiful solution of the Florentine problem, which Viviani had
sent as a challenge to British Mathematicians. His work was masterly,
and delighted geometers, and in Oxford he found time to write much more
than he had in Scotland, where teaching had always had to come first. He
next wrote a defence of his uncle against the Abbé Gallois, who accused
him of plagiarising from Roberval, and then followed his work on the
properties of the Catenaria or the curve made by a chain fixed at both
ends. In the course of this he was the first to observe that, by
inverting this curve, the legitimate form of an arch is arrived at.

In 1695 David Gregory married Elizabeth, a daughter of Mr Oliphant of
Langton. His marriage is commemorated in a Latin ode written by his
friend Anthony Alsop, a student of Christ Church, and published in his

Shortly after his marriage he brought out his great book, _Catoptricae
et Dioptricae Sphericae Elementa_, which turns out for the comfort of
the ignorant to be a great work on looking-glasses and lenses.

The book came as a revelation to many men in that day, for in it Gregory
tried to simplify his subject, and to make it clear to the many instead
of to the few. He was rewarded with praise, and his book was promised
immortality. How changed are things in the present day, when to none of
our writers will criticism promise celebrity exceeding at the outside
two generations. _Keill_ blossomed out into poetry: ‘It will last as
long as the sun and moon endure,’ and it is just possible that it may—in
the Bodleian Library!—only that was not what Keill meant.[2]

Footnote 2:

  John Keill, 1671–1721, was born in Edinburgh. Was Professor of
  Astronomy at Oxford and an active member of the Royal Society. He died
  of a ‘violent fever’ at Oxford on Thursday, August 31st 1721, a few
  days after entertaining ‘the Vice Chancellor and other academic
  dignitaries at his house in Holywell Street with wine and punch.’ He
  is buried in St Mary’s Church.

Comparatively unnoticed at the time was a suggestion made in this book
about mirrors and lenses with regard to following Nature in the
construction of a telescope. It was almost certainly Pitcairne who had
explained to Gregory the strange mechanism of the human eye, and how in
Nature objects before they fall on the retina pass through both the
vitreous humour and the crystalline lens. Gregory pointed out that
Nature does nothing in vain, and suggested that, in imitation of Nature,
the object glasses of telescopes might be composed of media of different
density, and that an instrument made on this principle would probably
produce much clearer vision than any then in use. After Dollond had
brought out his beautiful achromatic glasses the meaning of Gregory’s
suggestion became clear, but it is a curious fact that neither James
Gregorie, who invented the reflecting telescope, nor David Gregory, who
suggested the achromatic telescope, should ever have seen the practical
result of their imaginations.

Life in Oxford for Gregory turned out, as is often the case, to be
rather different from his anticipations. He had looked forward to years
of studious peace; but the reality, while it answered his expectation in
giving him much time for study, had surrounded him with men prepared to
be unfriendly towards him. ‘The Scotchman’ received much contumely in
Oxford, possibly more than would otherwise have been the case, because
he was so well known to the outside world. Some of Hearne’s Collections
have the full flavour of the sort of annoyance to which he must have
been subjected, an annoyance none the less irritating to Gregory because
the facts so generally disagreed with the views expressed about him.
Compare the two following passages, which are evidently meant to
describe the same circumstance.

‘In 1702, David Gregory produced at Oxford his most important treatise,
_Astronomiae Physicae et Geometricae Elementa_. In this were included
several propositions communicated by Newton, being results which their
author had not obtained at the time of the publication of the first
edition of the _Principia_, but was anxious to bring before the public
at once without waiting for the second edition of his own work.’ * * *

‘It may here likewise be observed that men well skilled in Mathematics
scruple not to say that David Gregory has stole most of his astronomy
from Isaac Newton, whom he has mentioned with some little acknowledgment
but not so often as he should have done, which, as ‘tis said, has put
Sir Isaac on a new edition of his _Principia_.’

How different these two stories are it is easy to see, and although Sir
Isaac never expressed the sentiments assigned to him by Hearne, nor, it
is likely enough, would Gregory ever have this charge made directly to
him, yet it is impossible but that the Savilian professor occasionally
felt the sting of such mischief-making.

Gregory’s great ally was Dr Charlett, the Master of University College,
but besides him, he numbered amongst his friends, Halley, who obtained
the Savilian Chair of Geometry, Dr Hudson, Dr Smalridge, Dr Wallis and
Dr Aldrich, between each of whom and Gregory, Hearne seemed determined
to make bad feeling. As was quite natural, these men, working along the
same lines, had often to use each other’s materials, but Hearne always
represented Gregory as pirating the results of their labour without
acknowledgment. The statement of his indebtedness, only given once, was
petulantly regarded as insufficient, and even inverted commas did not
mollify his wrath. In fact, Gregory committed the only sin which Dickens
says is unpardonable—he was successful—and the commoner men in Oxford,
who could not regard anything Scottish without disapprobation, would not
forgive him. When Hearne took exception to ‘the Scotchman’s Greek’ he
was on safe ground and no one regretted this more than did Professor
Gregory himself, who was held up for ridicule by Hearne because ‘men
took him for an oracle.’ When he commenced the publication of his
edition of the ancient mathematicians, he arranged with Dr Hudson that,
while he himself would be responsible for the mathematics, Hudson should
see to the correctness of the Greek. In this series too, Gregory and
Halley undertook an edition of the Conics of Apollonius, but it was not
completed till after Gregory’s death.

If Gregory was not universally appreciated at Oxford, at the court he
was in great favour, probably through the influence of Bishop Burnet,
who had been at college with his uncle. He was appointed mathematical
preceptor to the Princess Anne’s son, the young Duke of Gloucester, and
here again, if we are to believe Hearne, the choice of the court was
received with universal disapprobation.

His honours, however, were only enjoyed in anticipation, for the boy
died before his duties as tutor had commenced.

Gregory was now busy trying to compass some reformations in the Oxford
curriculum. He drew up a new scheme for an under-graduate’s course of
study, which was sent by Dr Charlett for Mr Pepys’ approval. ‘I send you
enclosed a scheme of David Gregory’s not yet in any other hand, with a
desire that you would, with the freedom of a man of honour and a
scholar, examine, correct, alter and improve it, as may make the design
most beneficial to youth (especially of the Nobility and Gentry) and
redound most to the honour of the University and our Professors and the
promotion of learning.’

Gregory’s plan was that the teaching should be given in English, which
was certainly a sensible proposal, that the undergraduates should study
some Euclid, trigonometry, algebra, mechanics, catoptrics, and
dioptrics, astronomy, the theory of the planets and navigation. ‘The
teacher,’ he said, ‘should be always ready to gratify the request of
those who desire his instruction. If possible, the students should have
a printed book on the subject; if not, the lecturer will take care
timeously to give those of the class proper notes to be written by them.
And lastly, if any students were found hungering and thirsting, they
were to be given regular demonstrations of the operations of integers,
or fractions, vulgar or decimal—when they pleased.’ As to the proper
numbers for a class, Gregory said they should be not less than ten and
not more than twenty. The course here touched on was described very
fully in the paper sent to Mr Pepys, and Mr Pepys’ answer is rather

‘REVEREND SIR, ... As little qualified as I truly am, for offering aught
upon a scheme digested with the thoughtfulness and skill of its learned
author, legible in every line of it, the terms nevertheless wherein you
require my opinion and advice concerning it, joined with the dignity of
its subject and quality of the persons for whom it is calculated, are so
forcible, that I cannot omit observing to you my missing two things....
First—_Music_—a science peculiarly productive of a pleasure that no
state of life, public or private, secular or sacred, no difference of
age or season, no temper of mind, or condition of health exempt from
present anguish, nor, lastly, distinction of quality, render either
improper, untimely, or unentertaining.[3] My other want is what possibly
may be thought of less weight; but what nevertheless holds no lower a
place with me on this occasion (whether for ornament, delight, solid
use, or ease of carriage both at home and abroad), than any other
quality a gentleman can bear about him, though none less thought on, or
(which is more) of less difficulty in the attaining ... I mean
Perspective: not barely as falling within the explication of vision, or
serving only to the laying down of objects of sight, but with the
improvement of it, to the enabling our honourable student gracefully to
finish and embellish the same, with its just heightenings and
shadowings, as far as expressible in black and white; thereby when in
foreign travels to know how by his own skill to entertain himself in
taking the appearances of all he meets with, as remarkable, whether of
palaces or of other fabrics, ruins, fortifications, ports, moles, or
other public views.’

Footnote 3:

  Mr Pepys, who, as we know from his Diary as well as from Evelyn, was
  skilled in music, had thus an opportunity of expressing his views on
  that subject.

Mr Pepys was slightly distressed at the suggestion that English should
take the place of Latin as the language in which teaching was given, not
because he did not think it necessary, but he was afraid lest the honour
of the university should be affected by such a change. Whether these
proposals were carried into effect then is uncertain, but the Savilian
professor came into closer connection with Mr Pepys during the few years
that elapsed before his death, being especially upon one occasion, made
the bearer of tender thanks from the university to Mr Pepys, who had
commissioned Sir Godfrey Kneller to paint Dr Wallis’ portrait for the
university. The drawing was done in Dr Gregory’s house, where the
reverend old man was happy and at his ease, and the picture of him is
pleasant. In the list of the persons to whom rings and mourning were
presented on the occasion of Mr Pepys’ death and funeral, Dr Gregory, Dr
Wallis and Dr Charlett, are all inserted as recipients of the most
expensive rings. Others who received tokens of regard, though not such
costly ones, were Sir Cloudesly Shovel, and Sir George Rooke; Mr William
Penn was honoured with a 20s. ring.

In 1704 Sir Isaac Newton became President of the Royal Society, amidst
general content. Prince George of Denmark was interested in astronomy,
and only wanted to be shewn how he could most wisely help this science
forward; and now thought Sir Isaac, if the prince gave the money, there
was no reason why Flamsteed’s laborious and accurate observations of the
heavens should not be published, for the help of him and all like him,
who were studying what Gregory calls ‘the Celestial Physicks.’ He
approached the Astronomer Royal, and after considerable difficulty,
persuaded him to draw up an estimate of his observations, which was
shewn to the prince. Prince George’s decision was made very rapidly, for
though he was far from brilliant, (as Charles the Second wittily said,
‘I have tried Prince George sober and I have tried him drunk; and drunk
or sober there is nothing in him’), he had at least one great merit,
that he recognised his own limitations. Feeling that the papers before
him conveyed absolutely nothing to his uninstructed mind, he appointed
some members of the Royal Society to act as referees and see that the
publication of Flamsteed’s _Catalogue of the Constellations_ was carried
out correctly. As referees he nominated Sir Isaac, Dr Gregory, Sir
Christopher Wren, Dr Arbuthnot, and the Hon. F. Robarts. Their work
proved very laborious: Flamsteed was a delicate, irritable man, and
Greenwich in these old coach days was a long way from London; but the
referees had made up their minds to carry the business through, and, as
the dispensers of the prince’s bounty, and protectors of public
interest, they drew up articles binding themselves as well as Flamsteed
and the printer to perform their relative obligations. So slow and
fretful however was the course of this joint effort, that neither the
princely benefactor nor Gregory, whom he had appointed a referee, lived
to see the work completed.

Gregory had, in 1702, dedicated his _Book on the Elements of Astronomy_,
to the prince, drawing a comparison while he did it between Prince
George of Denmark, the patron of science, and that King of Denmark who
had so wisely given to the great Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, the
wonderful observatory of Uraniborg—the city of the heavens.

The Preface of this book begins quaintly with a delicious run of mixed
metaphors—‘My Design in publishing this Book, was, that the Celestial
Physicks, which the most sagacious Kepler had got the scent of, but the
Prince of Geometers, Sir Isaac Newton, brought to such a pitch as
surprises all the World, might by my Care and Pains in illustrating
them, become easier to such as are desirous of being acquainted with
Philosophy and Astronomy.’ In this book there is a most curious mixture
of history, imagination, ideas of Newton’s, which the philosopher had
communicated to him, and observations. It was of course, as was usual at
that time, written in Latin, but Edmund Stone translated it into English
in 1726, and this was the book which Samuel Johnson read with so much
acceptance in some of his dull days in the Island of Coll. Gregory
imagined the stars as they would appear to the inhabitants of the
satellites of Jupiter and Saturn, and gave to his book that
inexpressible charm of individuality, so often present in the Gregories’
writings, which makes them draw portraits of themselves as they write
their books. In this treatise he elucidated the principles of astronomy
with all the wonderful improvements made in his day, and Newton himself
considered it a masterly explanation in defence of his philosophy.

Every now and then Gregory would go to spend some weeks with his friend
at Cambridge. On one of these visits it was that Sir Isaac had occasion
to express his views upon the superstitions of the day. He passed a
house opposite St John’s College, which was supposed to be haunted, and
round the doors was collected a crowd not only of undergraduates but of
Fellows, and some of them Fellows of Trinity. Noticing that some of the
rabble were carrying arms, his anger burst out. ‘Oh, ye fools,’ he said,
‘will ye never have any wit? Know ye not that all such things are mere
cheats and impostures? Fie! fie! Go home, for shame.’

When Gregory arrived at Cambridge he was always full of messages for Sir
Isaac, and when he left, equally so with messages from him. In this way
he saw a good deal of all the important mathematicians and astronomers
then living in Great Britain, and very likely it added to his already
considerable reputation. In 1705 he was elected an Honorary Fellow of
the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and on the 4th of October
he took his seat at the Board. This was no doubt an honour obtained for
him by his friend Pitcairne, who was then examiner, but Gregory could
not spend much time away from England.

When the negotiations for the Union between Scotland and England began,
Gregory was appointed along with Paterson, the founder of the Bank of
England, to decide what equivalent was to be paid to Scotland for
bearing her share of the debt of England, which was of course afterwards
to be considered as the debt of Great Britain. Amongst the many thorny
questions which emerged in the course of the deliberations about the
Union, there was none about which so many difficulties arose. Sir John
Clerk of Penicuik, who had so much to do with the affairs of Scotland at
that time, wrote his views upon the criticisms of the general public on
this matter.

‘Amongst all the articles of the Treaty of Union,’ he says, ‘there has
been none more talked of and less understood than the 15th, concerning
the Rise, Nature and Management of the Equivalents.

‘Upon this subject those who desired to be thought very wise, of deep
understanding, and Great reach of Thought, did vent themselves with a
certain Air, as if they pitied the Credulity and Ignorance of the
Contrivors, and so had Recourse to the ordinary Refuge of dull People,
who think they show their wit by laughing at what they do not

Of such commentators Gregory no doubt had his share, and the question
was one which was of necessity unintelligible to the ordinary mind, but
those who were in authority were absolutely satisfied with the manner in
which the work was done. It was a long task, and involved many journeys,
including one to Scotland, to set things on a proper working basis. Of
this prospect he writes to Dr Charlett, the Master of University

                  *       *       *       *       *

                                               ‘LONDON, _20 June, 1707_.

REVEREND SIR,—The occasion of giving you this present trouble is to
recommend to your civility My Lord Deskford and his Governour. He is son
to the Earle of Seafield, Lord Chancellor of Scotland. He is to stay two
or three months at Oxford. He has been regularly educated at the
University, and has past some time beyond sea. You will find him a sober
and grave young Nobleman. You may depend upon it, that he is what you
and I wish all such as him in Church affairs and all thereunto
belonging. I know I need say no more.

‘Though Dr Arbuthnot gott a promise of the N.T. from the Queen, He has
not yet gott the book it self. It was forgotten to be laid out before
the Queen went to Windsore.

‘Before I see you again, I am like to be sent by My Lord Treasurer into
Scotland, to see that the Mint there be regulated upon the same foot
with that of the Tower, as to the Standart of the Silver and Gold, the
Pieces of Moneys, the Weights, the Rateing and Standarding, and the
formes and manner of keeping the Books of the Mint, and I have been
somewhat taken up with seeing and informing myself of everything of this
nature in the Tower. I shall, I hope return before Michaelmass; but if I
should be 2 or 3 weeks after the beginning of the Term, I hope you will
excuse it, and every body concern’d.

‘As for what you propose to be done with the Mulctes, I am very clear
for it, Sir Henry Savile’s and Dr Wallis’s Armes will be very proper.

‘I hope to have an occasion to write to you again before I part. I am
with all respect and esteem,

                             ‘Reverend Sir,

             ‘Your most oblidged and most humble servant,

                                             ‘D. GREGORY.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

When the Union really came, it was very unpopular in Scotland and rather
unpopular in England. Dr Arbuthnot published in Edinburgh a pamphlet
with the title _A sermon preached to the people at the Mercat Cross of
Edinburgh; on the subject of the Union_. In it he forcibly argued
against the foolish prejudice of his own country. He pointed out the
intimate conjunction between Pride, Poverty and Idleness (’this is a
worse union a great deal than that which we are to discourse of at
present’). ‘Better is he that laboureth,’ he said in concluding, ‘and
aboundeth in all things than he that boasteth himself, and wanteth
bread.’ The populace, however, was by no means in the humour to be
cajoled by any man’s wit, and even Dr Arbuthnot, who, according to
Samuel Johnson, was the greatest writer of Queen Anne’s reign, found
himself unable to create anything but ungraciousness.

Dr Arbuthnot was a very constant friend towards Gregory, and the day was
fast drawing near when the professor should truly require his help.
Symptoms of serious illness appeared in 1708, and Dr Gregory was advised
to try the effect of the waters at Bath. He felt himself that his
journey would be in vain, and often tried to prepare his wife for his
being taken from her very suddenly. There was much to disturb the
quietness of his mind, his children were ill in London, and he was full
of anxiety for them and yet unable to go to them. After a wretched time
at Bath, it was decided that he should return to London, but at
Maidenhead he became so ill, that he could not be moved. Dr Arbuthnot,
who was sent for from Windsor, found him sinking, and on the 10th of
October 1708 he died.

The news was sent to Oxford by this kind physician in a letter to Dr
Charlett, Gregory’s best friend.

                  *       *       *       *       *

                                      ‘MAIDENHEAD, GREYHOUND INN,
                                              Tues. 3½ afternoon,
                                                        _Oct. 10, 1708_.

‘DEAR SIR,—This gives you the bad news of the death of our dear friend,
Dr Gregory, who dy’d about one a clock this afternoon, in this Inn on
his way to London from Bath. He sent to me last night to Windsor; I
found him in a resolution to go forward to London this morning, from
which I happily disswaded [him] finding him in a dying condition. He has
a child his only daughter dead at London of the small pox, of which
neither he nor his wife knew anything off, for I would not tell them;
the rest of his family lye sick of the same disease, so you may easily
guess what a disconsolate condition his poor widow must find herself in.
She would be glad to see you to advyce about his burying. My present
thought and advyce is to bury him at Oxford, where he is known, amongst
those who will shew a great deal of respect to his memory, and it is
allmost the same distance from this place as London. Mrs Gregory begs
the favour to see you here if possible, being one of his most intimate
friends, whom he allwayes confided in. I am in great grief and shall
stay here as long as I can in hopes of seeing you. If I am not here you
will find his brother-in-law, Dr Oliphant.

                                      ‘I am, Dear Sir,
                                              ‘Your most humble servant,
                                                    ‘JO. ARBUTHNOTT.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

Dr Smalridge also wrote to him.

                  *       *       *       *       *

                                                      ‘_Oct. 16th 1708._

‘REVEREND SIR,—You had sooner heard from me, but that my thoughts of
late have been very much discompos’d by Severall Melancholy Objects. On
Friday y^e last week I lost a dear child, of whom I was extremely fond,
and all that knew Him excused me for being so. I find all y^e Philosophy
I have, little enough to make me easie on this sad Occasion. The Images
do at present return thick upon Me, but I hope in a little time to find
y^m less afflictive. My wound would have been sooner heal’d had it not
been kept open by the Occasions I have had to give Others y^t comfort
which I have wanted myself. On Tuesday I went with Mrs Arbuthnot towards
Brentford to meet Dr Gregory and his Wife who were expected that day
from Maidenhead. My errand was to inform y^m of the death of their Girl,
of whom they were extremely fond, they left Her well when they went to
y^e Bath, and she died on Friday was sennight. We met not y^e coach We
expected, and when We returned, We found a letter was sent from Mrs
Gregory to her brother Dr Oliphant begging y^t he would come down to
Maidenhead to y^e Dr, who was very ill. She came to Town on Thursday
Night a very disconsolate Widow. The Doctor died on Tuesday-morning and
was buried on Wednesday-Night at Maidenhead. A messenger was despatched
to Hambledon to fetch you to Him, if you had been there. Mr Lesley came
from y^e Bath with Him and assisted Him in his sickness, and in
extremis. Dr Arbuthnot from Windsor came to Him. It seems He always told
his Wife that He should be but short-lived, and of late has often
desir’d Her to be prepared for his being taken from Her very quickly.
When his last Suit of Cloaths was made, He said He should not live to
wear them out. When He went out of Town, He did not expect to come home
again alive; and when He left y^e Bath to return He thought He should
not be able to reach y^e town. I am told that He has left his Family in
very good Circumstances. I am afraid his tender con[cern] for y^m was
prejudicial to his Health. He was an affectionate Husband, a tender
Father, an excellent Scholar, a man of great Experience and Prudence, of
good temper, of sober and religious principles, and One whom those who
had the happiness to be acquainted with Him will much miss. I visited
y^e Widow Yesterday, who bears her Affliction with as much patience and
resignation as can be expected. I hope her Husband’s Friends will do
what they can to make her loss less insupportable.

                                           ‘I am, Sir
                                                   ‘Your H. Servant
                                                                 ‘G. S.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

On her return to Oxford Mrs Gregory put up a monument to her husband’s
memory in the nave of St Mary’s Church. After Professor Gregory’s death,
Colin Maclaurin published of Gregory’s work _A Treatise on Practical
Geometry_. The first edition was sold out within a few years, and a
second was called for, as this book was in its day used as a text-book
in all the Scottish Universities.

Professor Gregory has been accused of spending too little of his time in
the observatory, and he was undoubtedly greater as a mathematician than
as an astronomer. It was as a pure mathematician that he held the high
place which was his in the eighteenth century.

                               CHAPTER V

                        DAVID GREGORY, 1696–1767

            ‘The picture of the ... Dean seems a true one.’

                                          —W. M. THACKERAY.

Of the four children who survived Professor David Gregory, there was
only one who inherited his taste for learning. This was his name son
David, the eldest of his children. The son’s gifts were not those of his
father; he was poetical, artistic, a student of history, who never wrote
upon the subject, a man in fact who had more of a woman’s cleverness
than a man’s; and looking back on him, his greatest power seems to have
been that faculty, which is not to be gained in any school—the
monarchial gift of leading. Everything which his hand touched was
blessed in his very touch, and through his life, as he passed along his
way, adorning different offices and positions of growing importance,
there was always some token left behind him that David Gregory’s
order-loving eye had rested there—the gardens had fresh flowers, halls
were beautified by statues, libraries became more spacious, and
hospitals were renewed in the same spirit of devotion which had long
before inspired the gracious givers.

David Gregory was born in Oxford on the 14th of July 1696. He was
educated at Westminster School, of which he was a scholar, and there
among the grey shadows of London this æsthetic little boy first learned
the fascination of history. There too he may have learned another thing,
his admiration for kings and queens, for he knew that the school owed
its foundation to the most picturesque queen that has ever reigned over
England, in whose day by the mercy of providence, more even than by the
queen’s wisdom, England became the mistress of the seas.

From Westminster he was elected to a studentship at Christ Church, and
in due course he took holy orders, and became the Rector of Semly in
Wiltshire. It was not long, however, before he was back again in Oxford,
for George I. upon his foundation in 1723 of the professorship of Modern
History (with which at that time the modern languages were associated)
appointed David Gregory to the chair. He was thus the first Professor of
Modern History at Oxford. Of his work as a lecturer there is no record,
but that he was thorough and painstaking no one can doubt; for realising
that the amount of work was too large for one man to accomplish, he
introduced several foreigners as teachers of their own language, and
until such time as they were self-supporting he provided for them out of
his own salary. Fortunately his chair was a lucrative one.

He took the degree of B.D. on March 13, 1731, and that of D.D. on the
7th of July of the following year, and four years later he was appointed
Canon of Christ Church. On undertaking this office he resigned his

While he was canon, it was one of his most congenial tasks to
superintend the restoration of the Great Hall, and before it was
completed, he presented busts of his early patron George I. and of
George II., who was then on the throne. The new library was also
finished under his care, and the interior, with its graceful pillars,
its delicately moulded roof and wide windows, was executed entirely
according to his taste, and under his personal supervision. Little did
he think as he guided the placing of the volumes, how one day his own
beautiful collection of books would take its place there out of the
reach of his son’s creditors. If Dean Gregory had been alive in 1775,
the old library, which had been the monastic refectory, would never have
been mutilated, as it was, for the accommodation of the Westminster

On the 18th of May, 1756, Dr Gregory succeeded Dr Conybeare as Dean of
Christ Church. He was in appearance, as in charm and dignity of manner,
well suited for such an office. Kind, courtly and genial, it was his
pleasure as well as his duty to attend the functions of the university,
and in his day he was unsurpassed in Oxford society. He was not very
learned, but he was a man of the world, and the Earl of Shelburne, who
thought it worth while to write some memories of the sleepy Oxford, in
which Dean Gregory took so important a part, describes the dean as the
kind soul that he was. ‘Dr Gregory succeeded Dr Conybeare and was very
kind to me, conversed familiarly and frequently with me, had kept good
company, was a gentleman though not a scholar, and gave me notions of
people and things, which were afterwards useful to me.’ Such a
characterisation might have astonished the dean himself, who would have
regretted with mild wrath his kindness to this young malapert, and would
no doubt also have gone for the assurance of his learning to those Latin
hexameters, which he as a self-made laureate had written at moments of
public interest. One set was upon the death of George I. and the
accession of George II., while another poem touched on the death of
George II. and the accession of his grandson; they were both considered
very scholarly, but, at the best, Oxford in Dean Gregory’s days was not
so very learned. Of all the heads of colleges, who are put into the
guide book to Oxford, used by the tourists of 1760, there is not one,
whose name is familiar, unless we count that of Dean Gregory, who also
might have passed into oblivion had it not been for his greater father.

The next honour that came to Gregory was his appointment as Prolocutor
of the Lower House of Convocation, and later, he became the Master of
Sherborne Hospital near Durham. ‘Christ’s Hospital in Sherburn,’ which
had originally been founded by Bishop Pudsey between 1181 and 1184, for
the benefit of lepers, and had by degrees, as leprosy died out, been
turned into an asylum for the aged poor. It had seen many changes, and
had from time to time been reformed as abuses came to light. In the
reign of Elizabeth, it was appointed that there should be thirty
brethren always living there, ‘except some there be sometimes absent, by
lack of chamber, the lodgings being few.’ When therefore Dr Gregory, who
was Master from 1760 to 1767, came into power and built a beautiful
stone edifice, in which these almsfolk lived, it was a cause of great
discontent that he only built rooms for twenty instead of thirty
brethren. The Chronicler, however, speaks of Master Gregory in high
terms as ‘the best of Masters,’ even if the conclusion be somewhat
equivocal. ‘His benevolence,’ says he, ‘was diffusive and general:
Whilst Master of this Hospital, he did not confine the poor old men, as
heretofore to the literal allowance, which, good as it might have been
when anciently settled on them by their founder, was now become a sad
and scanty pittance; but so far as it was in his power, made them enjoy
the sense and spirit of the benefaction. He demolished all the little
wretched huts in which they were huddled together before, and erected a
handsome commodious stone edifice, making it to consist of twenty
different apartments, that each of the old men might have one entirely
to himself, and also constructed a large room, in the centre of the
building, for their common reception, and comfortably provided it with
every necessary accommodation; but it must be remembered that all this
was not at his own cost or charge, for he cut down and sold a large wood
at Ebchester, belonging to the hospital, more than adequate to the
expense, and thereby put something into his own pocket.’ What a curious
conclusion to the praise of Master Gregory, who, it must be remembered,
is at the beginning of the narration called ‘the best of Masters!’—to
accuse him of putting public charity money into his pocket at the end!
If we had to believe it, there would once more be nothing for his
character except the extenuating circumstances of his connection with
that Highland worthy Rob Roy; but fortunately for the memory of Dean
Gregory, there is another biography of him, published not so long after
his death, in which it is explicitly said that the dean erected the new
buildings at Christ’s Hospital at his own expense, and not out of public
money, so—

                      ‘Let us never, never doubt,
                      What nobody is sure about.’

Dean Gregory married Lady Mary Grey, the youngest daughter of Henry
Grey, Duke of Kent (whose title died with him). She had much sorrow in
her married life, as all her sons turned out badly, and if the people of
her own day were as frank in their views about the dean and his wife, as
one writer was in the beginning of this century, she must have felt her
responsibility. ‘He had three sons,’ says this nameless chronicler, ‘who
being by their mother connected with the English aristocracy, took to
horses and dogs, and soon died out.’ Probably it was in his very
gentleness that the kind old dean failed towards his sons, for he had
such a horror of distress, that he could not bring it upon his children,
however much they deserved it. They were a great scandal, and were, too,
if one comes to think of it, the only failure in their father’s life. As
a parent he is highly extolled by an anonymous writer, and, this in
itself is touching enough, showing that his love was of the sort that
disappointment cannot kill, and that in their very weakness he did not
give them up. Possibly life did teach him to mistrust his sons, for he
left his valuable library, in the event of none of his children
following a learned calling, to his nephew, Dr James Gregory of
Edinburgh. The will was badly worded, so that Professor James Gregory’s
claim had to be disregarded, but the books were at all events not seized
by his sons’ creditors, and they remained in the custody of Christ
Church, and may now be found in the uppermost chamber of the closely
locked Wake archives.

David Gregory’s character was one which was much considered and
criticised. Some of his contemporaries would allow him no good point,
while others pronounced eulogies on his every action. One such eulogy,
written with no great literary skill, was perhaps the work of an
intimate acquaintance, stung into reply by the many attacks upon the
memory of his friend. Of his social character this unknown biographer
writes, ‘That cheerful, easy affability for which he was so remarkably
distinguished, gained him the love and affection of all around him,
which contributed very considerably to his institutions taking root so
readily, and in so short a time flourishing so successfully: abroad he
conducted himself with that dignity which his situation as governor of a
great college necessarily required; though, under his own roof, he
stripped himself of it all, and became, to everyone indiscriminately,
the easy and familiar companion: he conducted himself in short,
throughout, in such an admirable manner, that he was not only loved and
esteemed, but honoured and respected; and as he was in his life most
sincerely valued, so was he in his death truly and universally

There is no doubt that Gregory was a popular dean. He was, like so many
of the Deans of Christ Church, a Westminster student, and his
appointment, moreover, was all the more acceptable because he came
immediately after Dr Conybeare, the only non-Christ-Church man that has
ever held that office.

In his days the whole university was rather unillumined, and Christ
Church was no exception. Lord Shelburne, referring only to his own
college, says it was very low, and as a proof of his statement adds that
‘no one who was there in my time has made much figure either as a public
man or man of letters.’ But Gregory did his work well as far as in him
lay; he died in 1767 at a ripe old age, in much honour, in much
affection, and now lies buried beside his wife in Christ Church

                               CHAPTER VI


              ‘The City of the Scarlet Gown’—ANDREW LANG.

At Kinairdy on the 29th of April 1666 a fifth son was born to David
Gregorie. This was James, of whom probably because he was only one among
many, there is no individual record till his name occurs in the list of
the graduates in Arts in the Edinburgh University in May 1685. The
likelihood is that his early education was given him by his father, who,
notwithstanding his work as an amateur physician, found time to
superintend the studies of his children. Little is known of their
college friends, but Archibald Pitcairne, who afterwards became the
Professor of Medicine, first in Edinburgh and then in Leyden, was
constantly with them, and many happy vacations spent at Kinairdy were
made merrier by his society.

Shortly after James Gregorie graduated, and when he was certainly not
more than twenty, he was appointed to the Chair of Philosophy in St
Andrews. In his teaching he was able and thorough, if not brilliant.
Like his elder brother, he was much in advance of his age, and like him
too was giving expression to the Newtonian Philosophy before it had been
‘as much as heard of’ in Cambridge. There is extant a thesis by this
Professor James Gregorie dedicated to Viscount Tarbat, in which after a
list of scholars, candidates for the degree of A.M., there follow
twenty-five propositions, most of which are a compendium of Newton’s
_Principia_. The other three relate to Logic, and the abuse of it in the
Aristotelian and Cartesian Philosophy. His definition of logic is ‘the
art of making a proper use of things granted in order to find what is
sought,’ This was published in 1690.

Professor Gregorie occupied the Chair of Philosophy at St Andrews until
the Revolution, but then his love for the discrowned king compelled him
to resign. He could not bring himself to take the oath of allegiance to
William and Mary, and thus for a few years he was without any settled
work. Happily for him, however, David his elder brother was in 1692, by
the influence of Sir Isaac Newton, made Savilian Professor of Astronomy
at Oxford, thus leaving a vacancy in the Chair of Mathematics at
Edinburgh. He, too, had been somewhat under a cloud because of his love
for the Stuarts, and although his greatness had prevented the party
which was in power from ejecting him from his post, yet his life had
been made sufficiently uncomfortable for him.

But now things were changed. Feeling was no longer hot and bitter, and
James succeeded to his chair in 1692, with a prospect of a long and
quiet tenure of it. At the time of his election the College revenues
were low, and he had to accept the chair on a diminished salary of nine
hundred merks, or £50 sterling, in addition to the students’ fees. In
the end Gregorie certainly got his money’s worth out of the university,
for he retired at fifty-nine, owing to age and infirmity, and then lived
for seventeen years, during which time Colin Maclaurin, who had been
made joint-professor with him, got no salary. His case was indeed a
piteous one, and Sir Isaac Newton made him a yearly allowance of £20,
towards providing for him, ‘till Mr Gregorie’s place became void.’ The
entries in the Records of Marischal College, Aberdeen, concerning
Maclaurin’s conduct there, or rather not there, are quaint.

‘_December 23, 1724._—On consideration that M’Laurine has been abroad
and not attended to his charge for near thir three years the Council
appoint Mr Daniel Gordon, one of the regents “who had formerly taught
Mathematicks at the University of St Andrews” to teach the class during
the current session.’

‘_January 20, 1725._—M’Laurine having returned a Committee is appointed
to confer with him anent: 1st, his going away without Liberty from the
Counsell. 2nd, His being so long absent from his charge.’

‘_April 27, 1725._—M’Laurine appears before the Council, expresses
regret, and is reponed.’

‘_January 12, 1726._—The Council, learning “by the Publict News Prints”
that M’Laurine has been admitted conjunct professor with Mr James
Gregorie in the University of Edinburgh, declare his office vacant.’

It is a question whether there were not times when Colin Maclaurin
thought that the safe salary which he would have enjoyed at Marischal
College might have been preferable to his Edinburgh post,
notwithstanding the greater intercourse which he now had with the world
of science, but if so, there was no turning back.

Professor Gregorie married on the 4th September 1698, Barbara, a
daughter of Charles Oliphant of Langton, and a sister of his brother
David’s wife. A great gloom was cast upon their home life by the early
death of one of his daughters. She had an unhappy love affair, and is
said to have died of a broken heart. Whether this was so or not, her
story furnished the subject of Mallet’s ballad, ‘William and Margaret.’

               ‘Twas at the silent solemn hour,
                 When night and morning meet;
               In glided Margaret’s grimly ghost,
                 And stood at William’s feet.

               Her face was like an April morn,
                 Clad in a wintry cloud:
               And clay cold was her lily hand
                 That held her sable shroud.

               So shall the fairest face appear
                 When youth and years are flown,
               Such is the robe that kings must wear
                 When death has reft their crown.

               Her bloom was like the springing flower
                 That sips the silver dew,
               The rose was budded in her cheek,
                 Just opening to the view.

               But love had, like the canker worm,
                 Consumed her early prime:
               The rose grew pale, and left her cheek;
                 She died before her time.

               Awake, she cried, thy true love calls,
                 Come from her midnight grave;
               Now let thy pity hear the maid
                 Thy love refused to save.

               This is the dumb and dreary hour
                 When injured ghosts complain;
               Now yawning graves give up their dead
                 To haunt the faithless swain.

               Bethink thee, William, of thy fault,
                 Thy pledge and broken oath;
               And give me back my maiden vow,
                 And give me back my troth.

               Why did you promise love to me
                 And not that promise keep?
               Why did you swear mine eyes were bright
                 Yet leave those eyes to weep?

               How could you say my face was fair
                 And yet that face forsake?
               How could you win my virgin heart
                 Yet leave that heart to break?

               Why did you say my lip was sweet
                 And made the scarlet pale?
               And why did I, young witless maid,
                 Believe the flattering tale?

               That face alas no more is fair,
                 These lips no longer red;
               Dark are my eyes, now closed in death,
                 And every charm is fled.

               The hungry worm my sister is;
                 This winding sheet I wear;
               And cold and weary lasts our night
                 Till that last morn appear.

               But hark the cock has warned me hence,
                 A long and last adieu!
               Come see, false man, how low she lies
                 Who dy’d for love of you.

               The lark sung loud, the morning smiled
                 With beams of rosy red:
               Pale William shook in every limb
                 And raving left his bed.

               He hyed him to the fatal place,
                 Where Margaret’s body lay;
               And stretched him on the grass green turf
                 That wrapt her breathless clay.

               And thrice he called on Margaret’s name
                 And thrice he wept full sore,
               Then laid his cheek to her cold grave
                 And word spake never more.’

The author of this poem was not only a M’Gregor, but like the Gregories,
a M’Gregor of Roro, and though he had changed his name, as did so many
members of that unfortunate clan, the tradition was always kept up in
his family.

Charles Gregorie, a half brother of Professor James, who was for a time
Snell Exhibitioner at Balliol, was created by Queen Anne in 1707
Professor of Mathematics at St Andrews, which chair he held for
thirty-two years until such time as his son could be appointed in his
stead. He was quiet, studious, and able, but little is known of him.

David Gregorie, who succeeded him, does not bear quite so gentle a
character, but he was a much abler man and one who could make his
personality felt wherever he went.

After his own schooldays were over, he became tutor to the sons of the
Duke of Gordon with whom he was connected through his grandmother. In
this way he passed several years of his life before he was appointed to
the Mathematical Chair. As a professor he was very popular, and if he
tried to extend his influence beyond his class-room, he meant nothing
but kindness. This was not always understood. One of his students wrote
an autobiography, in which he described the ardour with which Mr
Gregorie insisted that he should attend the services at the
church—ardour for which Mr. Stockdale was not grateful and to requite
which he put the professor’s name into his ‘immortal’ autobiography as
that of a bigot, who had compelled him to attend the kirk. Thomas Reid,
when studying his cousin’s character and especially his whiggery and
Presbyterianism, so curiously unlike the rest of his family, remembered
that he, like himself, was descended from the second wife of David
Gregorie of Kinairdy, and had inherited her principles both in religion
and politics.

There is another incident in his life more likely to recall those of his
connections who bore the name of M’Gregor, and the record of it seems
odd enough and old-world enough in our eyes. The report is that of a
lawsuit which the professor had against Mr Wemyss of Lathockar.
Gregorie, it seems, who loved sport, was ‘hunting for partridges’ over
the broad meadowlands of Leuchars. He was accompanied by a man called
Baird, who carried a second gun for Professor Gregorie. Suddenly Mr
Wemyss sprang upon this man and seizing his gun refused to return it.
The professor was furious—Baird was carrying a second gun for him, he
was no common fowler, no higgler from whom a gun could rightly be taken;
but Mr Wemyss was obdurate and went away with the gun, and nine-tenths
of the law in his favour. And now there was no possible remedy but the
courts, and in due course, the matter came up before the Sheriff.
Gregorie claimed the restitution of his gun, and damages for the way in
which he had been treated. As regards his first request, his claim was
granted, but on the second point the judgment was not so favourable
for—is it possible?—there was a doubt in the Sheriffs mind as to whether
Gregorie himself had a right to be shooting over the grounds of
Leuchars. It had ceased to be a question only concerning Baird, and in
the end, the Professor of Mathematics in St Andrew’s University was
refused damages on the ground that he himself was poaching![4] The owner
of Leuchars was a minor, and as one of his tutors Professor Gregorie had
never doubted his right to shoot over the estate, but he went back to St
Andrew’s with new ideas on the limitations of his privilege.

Footnote 4:

  Robert Fergusson the poet, wrote a poem in the Scots dialect, on the
  death of this Professor David Gregorie.

His life ended in 1765, when he was only fifty-three. He published one
book, which was a Compendium of Algebra—an excellent text-book, said
Thomas Reid his cousin, and then added a description of the professor
which if not very interesting is still a portrait, drawn from life: ‘a
well-bred, sensible gentleman, and much esteemed as a laborious and
excellent teacher.’

                              CHAPTER VII

                       JAMES GREGORIE, 1674–1733
                       JAMES GREGORIE, 1707–1755

              ‘There’s an old University town
                Between the Don and the Dee,
              Looking over the grey sand dunes,
                Looking out on the cold North Sea.’

                                          —DR W. C. SMITH.

After her husband’s sudden death[5] Mrs James Gregorie returned to
Aberdeen. She did not wish to live in Edinburgh, which was now so full
of sad memories for her, and in the streets of which she had not had
time to become more than a wayfarer. She had shared Professor Gregorie’s
brilliant popularity, but the round of gaiety had brought them intimate
acquaintances rather than friends, and in her desolation her heart
turned to the home of her childhood, and back to the more kindly north
she took her three children, her two little girls and James about whom
this chapter is written. Thus it came that this boy was brought up, like
the generation before him, at the Grammar School of Aberdeen.

Footnote 5:

  Professor James Gregorie. _Cf._ Chapter III.

It was a good school, and did much for its boys, beating education into
them if they would not have it otherwise, and of such discipline little
Gregorie, who was no exception to the fiery family temper, no doubt had
his share. He passed from school to Aberdeen University and later to
Edinburgh, but when he inclined to become a doctor, it was decided that
he should go abroad and get a French degree, an arrangement to which he
acceded with joy, and in 1696 at the age of twenty-two he set out for a
time on the continent. Once away from home, with no one to consider but
himself, he turned to what was really the centre of greatest interest in
Flanders—the camp of William III. Merry were the days he passed there
and full of excitement, so that perhaps there was one person who was
only half glad when the Peace of Ryswick brought the war in Flanders to
an end.

But it was better for his work that he should go further afield. On
therefore he went, lingering first at Utrecht, then at Paris before he
reached Rheims, where he secured his degree in September 1698. How much
study Gregorie put into these years it is impossible to ascertain.
Medicine, and more especially surgery, were pretty barbaric arts in
those days, but this student, it should be remembered, was always a
Gregorie, and could not but learn.

Just before he came back to England he spent a few weeks in the French
camp, and after this he accepted an invitation to take a practice at
Chelmsford, Essex. But alas! James Gregorie found that he could not
settle down to a country life, and so to the regret of his patients he
took a hurried farewell of them, and went back to that town from which
his forbears had come—to the grey city ‘looking out on the cold North

There is no place in the world to be compared with the old mother city
of Aberdeen for the love in which her children hold her. Wherever they
go she is still their home, and from between her guardian rivers she
watches her sons as they go forth and is glad over their success. So it
was in the past, so is it now, and so may it be while the world lasts.

In the beginning of the eighteenth century Aberdeen was by no means a
dull place, and indeed Dr Gregorie, one suspects, may sometimes have
wished it to be duller, as for example when Rob Roy during the brief
time of his success was raising recruits for the Jacobite cause amongst
his clansmen there. The Earl of Mar, into whose hands the perfidy of
Montrose had thrown Rob Roy, had requested him to bring as many of his
clansmen into the Stuart camp as he could muster. While he was occupied
with this task, he lived with Dr Gregorie, for, however much the
physician may have deplored his connection with that too notorious
person, he could never afford to neglect him; and the charm of the
Gregorie household so fell upon the big, warm-hearted outlaw, that in a
burst of kindness and enthusiasm he offered to take Dr Gregorie’s little
son and ‘mak a man o’ him.’[6] Rob Roy thought him far too good to waste
upon doctoring, and if the sunny child had got his way, he would have
followed the cateran in that delicious life of adventure which he
painted—a life of hunting and fighting and success.

Footnote 6:

  Scene imitated by Scott, in Bailie Nicol Jarvie’s offer to take Rob’s
  sons James and Robert to apprentice.—_Rob Roy_, Ch. xxxiv.

But Dr Gregorie was much alarmed; he must not offend his cousin, not
only because he loved him, but because they were all alike quick in
anger, and a cold answer might have been answered by yet colder steel.
He could not trouble him with the youth’s education, and he had only
been trained in the Lowlands, and was not at all what a Highland boy of
his years would be, said the doctor, but all this depreciation only made
Rob Roy the keener to be friendly; and at last when every other excuse
had failed, the doctor shook his head and confessed that the child was
too delicate and would not live through a Highland winter. So, full of
compassion one for another the cousins parted, their roads ran far
apart; Rob Roy came to his end claymore in hand listening to the dirge
‘Cha till mi tuillidh’ (we return no more), while for the doctor there
was a career of steady success and a peaceful ending in the sweet house
in the middle of the herb garden.

Rob Roy had said he would come back and fetch the child when he was
older and stronger, but likely enough when the cousins met again the
chieftain could not advise any man to become his follower. Once again we
see them, Rob Roy walking arm in arm with his kinsman the Professor of
Medicine, down the Castle Street in Aberdeen, when suddenly the drums
beat to arms, and the soldiers begin to issue from the barracks. ‘If
these lads are turning out, it is time for me to look after my safety,’
said Rob Roy, as he slowly shook hands, and turning down one of the
neighbouring closes was seen no more. After telling this story, Sir
Walter Scott added: ‘The first of these anecdotes which brings the
highest pitch of civilization so closely in contact with the half savage
state of society, I have heard told by the late distinguished Dr Gregory
(James Gregory, Professor of Practice of Physic in Edinburgh), and the
members of his family have had the kindness to collate the story with
recollections and family documents, and furnish the authentic
particulars. The second rests on the recollection of an old man, who was
present when Rob Roy took French leave of his literary cousin on hearing
the drums beat, and communicated the circumstance to Mr Alexander
Forbes, a connection of Dr Gregory by marriage.’

There is also a gossiping paragraph about this Dr Gregorie, or rather
about his house, in Orem’s description of Old Aberdeen, written after he
was made Mediciner in King’s College, a post to which he was appointed
in 1725.

‘Dr Gregorie hath repaired his lodging belonging to the college anno
1727; and hath built to it a toofall, for giving it a better entry to
the rooms than it had formerly, in which toofall he hath a little room
for a study, and a little room below it beside the staircase. He hath
also repaired the garden dyke and hath begun to enclose his glebe, a
part wherof he hath enclosed with a stone dyke, and planted it within
the aforsaid year, and hath enclosed the rest of his forsaid glebe this
year 1728.’

The scene rises before us of the physician taking his interested friend,
the town clerk, over his house and grounds. It sounds most attractive,
both the front-hall and the study, and certainly the visitor appreciated
everything when he took the trouble to write it down in his book.
Gregorie also improved the salmon-fishing in the Don by building a stone
rampart across the river which was called ‘Gregorie’s Dyke’ and can
still be seen from the Bridge of Don. In return for this, ‘a half-net’s
fishing’ was granted to him and his heirs for ever, and this has now
devolved upon a descendant of Dr James Gregorie.

When Gregorie was made mediciner he was no longer young, but there was
little in his new position to call for energy; for, although the
University of King’s College of Aberdeen, had been the first to
institute a Chair of Medicine, the teaching of the subject was somewhat
fitful. His predecessor Professor Urquhart had given some ‘Publick
Lessons’ on this subject, but no where is it mentioned that either Dr
James Gregorie or his son followed his example. Their work consisted
chiefly in deciding which candidates were to be granted the M.D. degree,
and in taking a share in the university life. The mediciner was not a
regent and was thus saved the continuous worry and supervision which
fell to the lot of most of the professors.

As for the giving of degrees it was almost entirely a personal affair,
and a doctor of medicine did not by any means need to know much of his
subject. If he were desirable and willing to pay the fees, the mediciner
had the right to grant him a diploma; in some cases even the fee was
dispensed with. For example, there is the following entry in the Records
of the University and King’s College.

                  *       *       *       *       *

                         ‘8th September, 1701.

‘Mr George Cheyne allowed to be graduat doctor in medicine _gratis_,
because he’s not onely our owne country-man, and at present not rich,
but is recommended by the ablest and most learned physitians in
Edinburgh as one of the best mathematicians in Europe; and for his skill
in medicine he hath given a sufficient indication of that by his learned
tractat de Febribus, which hath made him famous abroad as well as at
home; and he being just now goeing to England upon invitation of some of
the members of the Royal Society.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

The affairs of King’s College left much to be desired at this time. As
early as 1709, there had been friction between the professors and
students, the latter of whom described their professors as ‘the useless,
needless, headless, defective, elective Masters of the K. Colledge of
Abd,’ and matters did not improve much in the intervening years; for,
when Professor James Gregorie’s son was mediciner, things had come to
such a pass that the university had to make special and almost pathetic
efforts to secure students.

                  *       *       *       *       *

                          ‘23rd October, 1738.

‘It being represented to the university, that the want of an
accomplished gentlewoman for teaching white and coloured seam, was an
occasion of several gentlemen’s sons being kept from this college, their
parents inclining to send them, where they might have suitable education
for their daughters also; and that one Mrs Cuthbert, now residing in
this town, had given sufficient proof of her capacity and diligence ...
the university judged it reasonable ... to advance her twelve pounds
Scots, out of the revenue belonging to the college for the ensuing
year.’ After this mention, Mrs Cuthbert passes quite out of the
University Records, so we do not know whether the housewifely efforts of
the authorities of the university were successful.

James Gregorie as mediciner received a salary of 180 pounds Scots, 26
bolls bear, 18 bolls meal; and on his resigning his chair on the 20th
December 1732, his son James was _eo die_ appointed to fill the vacancy,
to receive in his turn this munificent salary, and to live in the
fascinating manse.

Dr Gregorie married first, Catherine, second daughter of Sir John Forbes
of Monymusk, but she died young; his second wife was a daughter of
Principal Chalmers (one of the family who founded the _Aberdeen
Journal_), and we can imagine a little joint influence on the part of
the Dean of Faculty and the Principal of King’s College bringing about
this desired election, for we never hear that the third Professor James
ever did anything to make his name live. It was to be left to his
stepbrother to carry on the tradition of the family, but John Gregorie
was only a child when his father died.

Dr James Gregorie, the mediciner, died in January 1733.

In many ways he was among the least distinguished of his family. He
stands there in a misty crowd of the educational magnates of a very far
past time, surrounded by the canonist, the civilist and other obsolete
dignitaries, and all he leaves is an impression of content and of
diplomatic gifts, which show themselves whenever he rises out of
obscurity. This diplomacy, which when it is used in domestic affairs is
called by the Scotch ‘canniness,’ was passed on in the family along with
the gout which came from the Chalmerses, and the combination was
curious. Later on James Gregorie, the cousin of Rob Roy, was recognised
as the founder of the Aberdeen School of Medicine.

His son, Professor James Gregorie, was professor from 1732 to 1755. He
was delicate and irritable, and his friends had a standing joke whenever
he was cross, which probably palled upon him after a certain time. ‘Ah,’
they would say, ‘this comes of not being educated by Rob Roy.’ They, at
least, thought this extremely witty.

Dr Gregorie married Helen Burnet, who was a connection of his own, one
of the Burnets of Elrick. They had no children. He died on the 18th of
November 1755.

                              CHAPTER VIII

                        JOHN GREGORY, 1724–1773

    ‘The good-natured size of his person and set of his face, seem to
    show that Philosophy is not the thing of toil and anguish it once
    was to men.’—ROBERT W. BARBOUR.

From an Aberdeen education at the Grammar School to begin with, and
afterwards at King’s College, where he learned his Latinity, John
Gregory came to Edinburgh in 1742. He came with his mother to look after
him, who, poor soul, was haunted by the remembrance of his brother
George’s early death, and would hardly let John out of her sight. Both
of the boy’s guardians had agreed that for a medical education he must
attend Edinburgh University. His brother, the mediciner in Aberdeen,
never seems to have suggested that he should stay there, where there was
really no systematic teaching of medicine, nor did his grandfather,
Principal Chalmers, the Principal of King’s College.

To begin his study at Edinburgh, to continue it at Leyden, was the best
suggestion that they could offer him, and it turned out excellently.

His professors in Edinburgh were Professor Monro, (the first), who daily
strove to make dry bones live, and succeeded; Professor Sinclair, who
expressed Boerhaave’s teaching in his own very beautiful Latin; Dr
Rutherford, the grandfather of Sir Walter Scott, who taught the Practice
of Physic, and Dr Alston, the strangeness of whose prescriptions makes
it possible for us to grasp what an advance Cullen and Gregory
accomplished in medicine. These were very nearly the same professors as
lectured when Goldsmith attended the university some ten years
afterwards, and he did not think much of any of them, except Professor
Monro, to whom he gave his heart’s admiration. ‘This man,’ he wrote,
‘has brought the science he teaches to as much perfection as it is
capable of; ‘tis he, I may venture to say, that draws hither such a
number of students from most parts of the world, even from Russia.’

As for Professor Alston, he has left behind him the notes of his
lectures, and they are very curious, though not laughable, for after all
it was what everyone believed in those days. ‘Earthworms, large and fat
ones especially, were dried and used in cases of jaundice and gout: the
juice of slaters passed through a muslin bag was recommended for cancer,
convulsions and headache.’ But, all the same, think of John Gregory
taking notes of such teaching, sitting up late at night to write down
how vipers must be used for ague and small-pox, and picture his watching
the cure of the lady with a headache who could be induced to drink the
wood-lice-juice. No wonder she was cured when you think what faith she
must have brought to her physician.

Though these notes from Alston’s lectures seem only worthy of a
medicine-man, there was yet throughout the university an awakening
spirit of life and of enquiry. The Royal Medical Society, which Cullen
had founded in 1735, and which John Gregory attended in 1742, was the
scene of the most lively debates upon every subject in medicine and
philosophy. Little was taken for granted, and everything was questioned.
In Gregory’s year its charm was greatly enhanced by the presence of Mark
Akenside, who was a member, and the best company possible. Amusing,
poetical, his oratory drew many persons to the Society. Robertson, the
historian, came every night when Akenside was going to speak, and the
racy talk was enjoyed by him almost as much as it was by the speakers.

Gregory spent three years in Edinburgh at this time, and then went to
Leyden to study under Albinus, Gaubius, and Van Royen. Albinus was an
anatomist. His engravings were much clearer than those procured by
anyone else at that time, but he was not a great lecturer, only
painstaking and observant. In Gaubius, however, the university had a
strong man, a vivid teacher, and an original thinker, and if Gregory had
needed inspiration, he would have found it in his teaching.

To John Gregory Holland was delightful country when contrasted with the
cold east of Scotland, where even the roads were almost impassable in
bad weather. In Holland he made his way along sunlit canals, through
villages gay with gardens, and when he reached Leyden his enjoyment was

Full of delight he went about the quiet squares of the university town,
along the banks of the old Rhine, and round the path on the top of the
wall. Everything was new, and everything was foreign. He chose rooms for
himself at a well-known lodging on the Long Bridge. Mademoiselle van der
Tasse arranged her house especially for English-men. It paid her better,
and besides, the fat little French-woman could talk English, and knew
how to please, and her coffee was famous in the town. Gregory’s
companions in Leyden were Alexander Carlyle, afterwards minister of
Inveresk, Dr Nicholas Monckly, Charles Townshend, John Wilkes, and a few
Scotsmen. Some of them were studying law, some divinity, and the others
medicine. But alas for the great fame of Albinus and Van Royen. ‘I asked
Gregory,’ wrote Alexander Carlyle, ‘why he did not attend the lectures,’
which he answered by asking in his turn why I did not attend the
divinity professors. ‘Having heard all they could say in a much better
form at home, we went but rarely, and for form’s sake only to hear the
Dutchmen.’ So after all it was not the Professors of Leyden that taught
John Gregory so much. Albinus was no doubt worthy, but in his portrait
he looks a little dead, a little like a mummy. He looks as if he had
forgotten that men were anything more than bones.

The students who most enlivened the university were Charles Townshend
and Wilkes, both of whom became notorious in after life, Townshend as a
statesman, and Wilkes as Wilkes. On the first Sunday after Carlyle
joined the party at Leyden, Gregory took him out for a walk along the
Cingle, and introduced him to the English colony. As Wilkes drew near
the newcomer asked eagerly about him. His face was so remarkable, not
only for its ugliness, but for its self-assurance and interest, that no
one could pass him without notice. Gregory’s answer was that ‘he was the
son of a London distiller or brewer, who wanted to be a fine gentleman
and man of taste, which he could never be, for God and Nature had been
against him.’ And famous and popular as he afterwards became, this
estimate of him remained true, for he never succeeded in becoming either
a gentleman or a man of taste. What a clear insight Gregory had, and
what a sharp tongue! He carried things all his own way in Holland, but
in Edinburgh it was different; there his rapid way of expressing his
thoughts even about the things for which he cared most deeply, was often
put down to shallowness and hypocrisy.

The conversation among these men was often brilliant, but most of all at
their students’ supper parties—these Leyden suppers of red herring, eggs
and salad. Gregory’s great subjects were religion, and the equal, if not
superior, talents of women as compared with men. Everybody made fun of
him, for ‘he could hardly be persuaded to go to church, and there were
no women near whom he could have wished to flatter;’ but he would not
change his mind. Nicholas Monckly was a great friend of Gregory’s, but
more because it brought him into notice than because of any love. He saw
that Gregory could be witty, so he used to talk to him in private about
subjects of interest, and then bringing the same matter up for
discussion at their evening entertainments, would give out his friend’s
opinions as if they had been his own. Gregory was much amused with this,
and after a few evenings took Carlyle into his confidence, whereupon
these two played many pranks upon poor Monckly, leading him out of his
depth, or contradicting him. The sport was given up, because the victim
was too unconscious of their satire, and when they made their chaff
plain, he would come into Gregory’s bedroom, and complain even with
tears. Wilkes, who tried too, but with greater success, to be a leader
among the students, used to leave Leyden when he felt tired of it, and
spend a few days in Utrecht with ‘Immateriality Baxter.’ These two men
were really attached to one another, and what an ideal retreat it was to
go to the house of that quaint Scotsman, even though he was in exile.
King’s College in Aberdeen honoured John Gregory in his absence by
sending him the degree of M.D., and thus distinguished, he turned his
face again towards home. He, along with Carlyle and Monckly, travelled
_via_ Helvoet, Harwich, and London. In the boat they found a charming
companion in Violetti, who was on her way to fulfil an engagement at the
Haymarket Theatre, and to fame. She became Mrs Garrick, and lived
happily in her villa, near London, till 1822, but except on the stage,
Gregory never saw her again.

Now there happened to John Gregory, what so seldom befalls anyone, that
he was put into the right place for him without any effort on his part.
When he returned to Aberdeen he was offered the Chair of Philosophy,
which meant in those days that he should teach mathematics, natural
philosophy and moral philosophy, and be a regent. His former study did
not exactly lead to this, and people must sometimes have asked of what
use had his apprenticeship to his doctor brother been to him if he were
to turn into a philosopher. But there was plenty of time to be several
things in the leisurely eighteenth century. That was what John Gregory
thought, so from 1747 to 1749 he was a Regent of Philosophy.

Although regents had been abolished both in Edinburgh and Glasgow
Universities before 1746, in Aberdeen they were still retained, and from
the statement quoted in Mr Rait’s book on the Universities of Aberdeen,
I take the following paragraph, descriptive of the attitude of King’s
College in regard to this subject. ‘Every Professor of Philosophy in
this University is also tutor to those who study under him, has the
whole direction of their studies, the training of their minds, and the
oversight of their manners; and it seems to be generally agreed that it
must be detrimental to a student to change his tutor every session ...
and though it be allowed that a professor who has only one branch of
philosophy for his province, may have more leisure to make improvements
in it for the benefit of the learned world, yet it does not seem at all
extravagant to suppose that a professor ought to be sufficiently
qualified to teach all that his pupils can learn in philosophy in the
course of three sessions.’ So it was not only to teach, but to train the
minds, and ‘overlook’ the manners of his students, that John Gregory was
called. He was the only Gregory who ever was a regent, and he came to
his work with a clear insight into students’ ways, being indeed hardly
more than a student himself. But the life must have been unattractive.
To quote from a letter dated September 4th, 1765, from Thomas Reid, who
held the Chair of Philosophy shortly after his cousin, which is full of
much interesting information as to what the work of a regent was
like:—‘The students here,’ he says, ‘have lately been compelled to live
within the College. We need but look out at our windows to see when they
rise and when they go to bed. They are seen nine or ten times throughout
the day statedly, by one or other of the masters—at public prayers,
school hours, meals, in their rooms, besides occasional visits which we
can make with little trouble to ourselves.’

‘They are shut up within walls at 9 at night. This discipline hath
indeed taken some pains and resolution, as well as some expense, to
establish it.’

Along with this work in King’s College, John Gregory engaged in general
practice as a physician. He found it very engrossing, much more so than
the philosophical teaching which he had to give, and he determined to
resign his regentship, and to go abroad for a few months.

On his return he fell in love with the Hon. Elizabeth Forbes, a daughter
of William, Lord Forbes. She was a beautiful girl, very clever, and she
was besides an heiress, and there is a story that her father did not at
all approve of the marriage. ‘What do you propose to keep her on?’ said
he, and Gregory, getting angry, took his lancet out of his pocket, and
said, ‘on this.’ They were married in 1752. Their life was a singularly
happy one, to use the expression of their own day, ‘they mutually
enjoyed a high degree of felicity.’ For two years they were in Aberdeen,
and then Gregory got impatient of his small practice, for there was only
room there for one Dr Gregory, and he made up his mind to seek his
fortune in London. This was a step which he was glad of all his days,
for it brought him into contact with so many interesting people. ‘In
London,’ says Lord Woodhouselee, he was ‘already known by reputation as
a man of genius.’ How this could be, seeing that he had done little to
show his talents, it is difficult to understand. Perhaps some one who
knew him in the old Leyden days had spread a report of his brilliancy,
or some Aberdonian may have named him as a coming power. However it
happened, the effect was most fortunate, for not only was he recognised
by the scientific world, and made a Fellow of the Royal Society, but Sir
George Lyttelton and Mrs Montague, ‘that fascinating humbug,’ made
friends with him, and whatever Mrs Montague was to other people, she was
most sincerely kind to the Gregories.

These were the days of Samuel Johnson, of Sir Joshua Reynolds and his
sister, of Miss Burney, of Garrick and of Lyttelton, and it was to this
society that Mrs Montague introduced her new Scottish friends. It is
true that there were days when ‘Mrs Montague kept aloof from Johnson
like the west from the east,’ and when the sage said bitter things about
‘Mrs Montague for a penny’; but there were also the other days when they
smiled upon one another, when Johnson forgot that she had called
_Rasselas_ a narcotic, and listened while Mrs Thrale compared her
conversation with that of Burke. Reynolds thought her beauty classical.
Miss Burney once called her the glory of her sex, and all the world
reading her essay on Shakespeare believed that she had saved his fame
from the calumnies of Voltaire. Into this admiring circle Gregory was
admitted and was himself enjoyed and appreciated, and it is possible
that he might also in the end have secured a practice if he had
continued to live in the south. But in 1756 his brother James died
leaving a vacancy in the Chair of Medicine in Aberdeen. To this chair
Gregory was appointed and half reluctantly he turned his back upon
London, and took up his new duties at King’s College, He returned
unchanged except for his broader ideas and wider culture; and, although
the rest of his life was passed within the somewhat narrow limits of
university towns, he never became provincial.

Teaching was not one of his duties as mediciner. A few years
apprenticeship to any doctor sufficed for training, and gave the
students all the preparation they desired for a degree. John Gregory and
Dr Skene fretted against this, and in the hope of founding a Medical
School opened Lectures on Medicine. But the students did not attend. It
was an indignity to the university, keenly felt by these professors,
that an Aberdeen degree should be the laughing stock of all the other
universities; but without an Infirmary it was impossible to teach the
Practice of Physic, and the attempt had to be given up for the time.

Then it was that Thomas Reid and Gregory planned the Philosophical
Society, which was nicknamed by the people who did not belong to it ‘the
Wise Club.’ It met after five o’clock dinner at a queer little tavern
called the Red Lion Inn. A paper was read and its subject discussed.
There was wine on a side table, but no healths were allowed to be drunk,
and at an early hour the discussions ended. Among the members were
Gregory, Reid, David Skene, Gerard, and Beattie the poet, who became a
great friend of Gregory’s. The evenings were merry and the little
parlour of the inn echoed to many a peal of laughter. The commonest
entry about Gregory is ‘discourse not readie,’ which his cousin the
philosopher, who kept the minutes never failed to insert, and also for
the benefit of the Society the fine was always claimed by the members
present, and laughingly paid by the unready professor. On these nights
when no essay was read the Society had to content itself with
philosophic discussion, the nature of which was arranged at the previous
meeting. There was for them always, however, one never failing subject
in David Hume’s Sceptical Speculation. ‘Your company, although we are
all good Christians, would be more acceptable than that of Athanasius,’
wrote Reid in 1763 to his great opponent, and it was true. To Gregory
there were moreover fields for speculation on education, on what
medicine had done for men, on the distinction between Wit and Humour, on
agriculture, and in his two books which attained such popularity there
are chapters which do nothing more than follow out the ideas which he
uttered at the Philosophical Society. Many books had their origin in
this club. Gerard’s on _Taste_, Beattie’s _Essay on Truth_, Campbell’s
_Treatise on Miracles_, and _Philosophy of Rhetoric_, and John Gregory’s
_Comparative View of Man and the Animal World_, all books with a great
name in their day, but Gregory’s for one sadly uninteresting now, when
his startling views upon education have been universally accepted, and
there remains of what is unusual only pedantic comparison and prosy
sentiment. It is forgotten that John Gregory was an innovator when he
advocated keeping children warm and when he refused to recognise the
necessity of the icy morning bath, which before his day was _de rigueur_
in every nursery. Long after his teaching days were over there were
still found homes where his broad sensible views had not penetrated, and
in the _Memoirs of a Highland Lady_ Miss Grant gives a terrible
description of her own early days (1806).

‘A large long tub stood in the kitchen-court, the ice on the top of
which had often to be broken before our horrid plunge into it; we were
brought down from the very top of the house, four pair of stairs, with
only a cotton cloak over our night gowns, just to chill us completely
before the dreadful shock. How I screamed, begged, prayed, entreated to
be saved, half the tender-hearted maids in tears beside me, all no use,
Millar had her orders. Nearly senseless, I have been taken to the
house-keeper’s room, which was always warm, to be dried, then we
dressed, without any flannel, and in cotton frocks with short sleeves
and low necks. Revived by the fire, we were enabled to endure the next
bit of martyrdom, an hour upon the low sofa, so many yards from the
nursery hearth, our books in our hands, while our cold breakfast was
preparing.’ What a changed life have the little folks of to-day! But, ah
me! this name of Gregory to childhood. ‘The evil that men do lives after
them; the good is oft interred with their bones ...’ the son’s mixture
made the name of Gregory abhorred in every nursery, and all the father’s
good deeds are forgotten.

On the 29th of September 1763 Dr Gregory’s wife died. It was the
greatest sorrow of his life, and afterwards when high honours came to
him in his profession, and when the world praised him, he never ceased
to think with longing of the early joyous days of his love. Elizabeth
Gregory was very happy, and even in her memory there is something tender
and simple, something to make one smile, and feel the better of it.
Picture this peer’s daughter, as she stood one afternoon, making
impotent appeals to her little boy (who was dressed in white for a
party,) to leave the herd of small ragamuffins whom he was leading to a
glorious mud-damming of the gutter. Little James paid no attention to
his mother—I doubt whether he heard her—for the dam was breaking, hope
was almost gone, when with a shout of joy he remembered that he himself
was a solid body, and sitting down in the breach, cried out in broad
Scots to his admiring followers, ‘Mair dubs, laddies, mair dubs.’

Some years after his wife’s death Dr Gregory was invited to go to
Edinburgh. Professor Rutherford, who held the chair of the Practice of
Physic, wished to retire, but he would not resign his place to Cullen,
whom he held a heretic in medicine. So the old professor arranged that
John Gregory should be asked to come from Aberdeen, and set up practice
in Edinburgh. At another time Professor Gregory would have hesitated,
but in his distress and despondency he thought of what a benefit it
would be to himself to leave the sad associations of Aberdeen and allay
his sorrows in the fulness of work which he knew would await him. His
university did not ask him to resign his chair at King’s College, but in
1765 Sir Alexander Gordon of Lesmore was appointed as joint-professor.

John Gregory settled in 15 St John’s Street, Edinburgh, in 1764. His
house was pleasantly situated on a hill, and was almost next door to
Lord Monboddo’s, between whom and Gregory there presently sprang up a
great intimacy. Practice came fast to Gregory, but celebrity greater
than that which comes to a practitioner, however successful, made his
first year in Edinburgh a year of triumph. Only a few months before, he
had sent his manuscript of _A Comparative View of the State and
Faculties of Man with those of the Animal World_ to Lord Lyttelton, and
now the book had been published in London and received with such an
enthusiasm that even Gregory and his patron were greatly astonished.
London read the book, Aberdeen read the book, and so did Edinburgh, and
Gregory was made at once a member of that literary Edinburgh as he had
in his youth been received by Mrs Montague and her friends in London.

The matter was good and fresh at the time, but what was most praised was
the style. ‘If you wish to see the natural style in the highest
perfection, read the works of the late Dr John Gregory.... But in
particular his _Comparative View_, which in respect to natural ease and
unaffected elegant simplicity of style is not to be exceeded in any
language, and in as far as my reading has extended has not been equalled
by any other composition in English.... Gregory’s style may be compared
to the acting of Garrick; it is only by a retrospective view that its
superior excellence can be discovered.’

This is only one of the many laudatory reviews of the book, and by no
means the most flattering, and it says a great deal for John Gregory’s
sense that, in spite of this lionising, he came so successfully through
the difficulties which crowded round him for the next few years.

Professor Rutherford watched with growing satisfaction the success of
the Aberdeen doctor, whom he regarded as a protegé of his own. It was
unfortunate for Gregory that he stood as it were as a rival of Cullen,
for whom he had throughout life the profoundest regard. But nevertheless
this was the case.

In 1766 matters came to a climax in the appointment of Gregory to the
Chair of the Practice of Physic, made vacant by the retirement of
Professor Rutherford. There was an immediate and furious outcry against
this election, which was known to be mostly due to family influence.
Gregory was a great man, and proved himself a brilliant teacher, but at
this time he was absolutely untried, whereas Cullen had already made
himself a name as one of the greatest teachers of the day.

The gift of the chair was in the hands of the Town Council, and to that
body an address from the students of medicine was sent after the death
of Dr Whytt, Professor of the Theory of Medicine, suggesting the
advisability of asking Professor Gregory to resign the Chair of the
Practice of Physic, which he then held, and accept the less important
one of the Theory of Medicine, in order to make room for Cullen in the
Practical Chair.

‘We who make this application are students of medicine in your
University.... We are humbly of opinion that the reputation of the
University and Magistrates, the good of the city, and our improvement
will all in an eminent manner, be consulted by engaging Dr Gregory to
relinquish the Professorship of the Practice for that of the Theory of
Medicine, by appointing Dr Cullen, present Professor of Chemistry, to
the practical chair, and by electing Dr Black Professor of Chemistry.’
After a dissertation on the qualifications of Dr Cullen, they proceed.
‘Nor is this our opinion of Dr Cullen meant in the least to detract from
the merits of Dr Gregory. On the contrary, a principal motive to our
expressing the sentiments we do on this occasion is the high opinion we
entertain of that gentleman’s capacity. By a late very elegant and
ingenious performance, by everybody attributed to him, we imagine it is
evident what advantages the University must reap from lectures on the
Theory of Medicine, delivered by a thinker so just and original, and so
universally acquainted with human nature. With pleasure too, we reflect,
that his character is not less respectable as a man, than as a
Philosopher. We therefore cannot suppose, that were the public emolument
to be obtained even at the expense of his private interest, he would not
rejoice to make the honourable sacrifice, far less that he would, in the
least hesitate to favour a scheme for promoting the public utility, when
his private advantage is consistent with it.’

This can hardly have been pleasant reading for Gregory, and the whole
proceeding was so entirely out of order that the Town Council took no
action in the matter. Meanwhile Gregory was made First Physician to the
King for Scotland in the place of Dr Whytt. He lectured for three years
on the Practice of Physic, and then he and Cullen agreed to give
alternate lectures on the Theory and Practice of Medicine. The
university possessing three such able teachers as Gregory, Cullen and
Black, grew more and more prosperous. It is impossible to go over the
records of these years without admiration for John Gregory, who, amidst
all the strife that waged around him and around Cullen, has not left a
record of any bitterness. That he must have felt these annoyances is
obvious, but his worries were only Edinburgh worries, and outside he
knew that both he and Cullen were appreciated and valued for their
individual work. On his appointment to the Edinburgh chair he had
resigned his King’s College professorship.

When Dr Gregory came to Edinburgh, he came with his six children.
Elizabeth, his youngest little girl, died in 1771. His eldest son James
was studying medicine, the other boys were at work, and Dorothea and
Anna Margaretta, his elder daughters, were growing into more charming
companions for him with every day that passed. They were tall, willowy
girls, promising great beauty, and full of sweetness. Dorothea, or Dolly
as she was called, was a god-daughter of Mrs Montague’s, and when that
lady came to stay with Dr Gregory, she was absolutely fascinated by her
godchild. Her visit was a great pleasure to the Gregorys, to whom she
was ever her most charming self.

Edinburgh society did not take kindly to her, if we are to believe Dr
Carlyle, and in fact he is rather bitter upon the subject, calls her ‘a
faded beauty,’ ‘a candidate for glory,’ and says she might have been
admired by the first order of minds had she not been ‘greedy of more
praise than she was entitled to.’ Even he, however, acknowledged her a
wit, a critic, an author of some fame, possessing some parts and
knowledge, which is praise to a certain point, though not to the point
which Mrs Montague would have desired! ‘Old Edinburgh was not a climate
for the success of impostures,’ writes the minister of Inveresk, and
then to support his judgment with a little legal weight, he added, ‘Lord
Kames, who was at first catched with her Parnassian coquetry, said at
last that he thought she had as much learning as a well-educated college
lad here of sixteen.’ Alas, poor Mrs Montague! and then, too, Dr Carlyle
has unwittingly pointed out the rock on which she struck—‘she despised
the women’—and by such obvious silliness did she not evoke her fate?
Gray the poet was also a visitor at the Gregorys’ and Gregory was asked
to meet anyone of interest who came to the town. With Smollett, indeed,
who lived in St John Street for a winter, he could have little real
friendship, for the novelist had put Lord Lyttleton into _Roderick
Random_ in anything but a kindly spirit, and the Gregories were
notoriously ‘Love me, love my dog’ people. He lived on terms of close
intimacy with Dr Robertson, Dr Blair, David Hume, John Home, Lord Kames,
Lord Monboddo, and Lord Woodhouselee. He was a member of the Poker Club,
though he went there very seldom, because of the way he was laughed at
when he uttered his favourite doctrine of the superiority of women over
men. This at least was the gossip of the time, but there is just a
possibility that he thought his own company more entertaining than the
constant attendance at the Poker from three in the afternoon till eight
at night, and though no one knew it, he was busy drawing up a book of
advices for his daughters against the time, which he felt could not be
very far off, when he would no longer be with them.

‘MY DEAR GIRLS—You had the misfortune to be deprived of your Mother at a
time of life when you were insensible of your loss, and could receive
little benefit either from her instruction or her example. Before this
comes to your hands, you will likewise have lost your Father. I have had
many melancholy reflections on the forlorn and helpless situation you
must be in if it should please God to remove me from you before you
arrive at that period of life, when you will be able to think and act
for yourselves.... I have been supported under the gloom ... by a
reliance on the Goodness of that Providence which has hitherto preserved
you, and given me the most pleasing prospect of the goodness of your
dispositions, and by the secret hope that your Mother’s virtues will
entail a blessing on her children.’

This was the spirit in which the book was written, and though it is a
type of book which has entirely passed out of fashion, it is interesting
to read it and remember that in the days of our great-grandmothers it
had its place on every girl’s table.

Dr Gregory had a very observant way of watching girls, he knew life, and
his advice was shrewd and tender. In the chapter on Conduct and
Behaviour there are many quaint observations as to what gifts are
attractive in a girl.

‘Wit,’ he says, ‘is the most dangerous talent you can possess, it must
be guarded with great discretion and good nature, otherwise it will
create you many enemies’.... ‘Be even cautious in displaying your good
sense. It will be thought you assume a superiority over the rest of the
company—But if you happen to have any learning, keep it a profound
secret, especially from the men’.... ‘Beware of detraction, especially
when your own sex are concerned. You are generally accused of being
particularly addicted to this vice—I think unjustly—Men are fully as
guilty of it when their interests interfere. As your interests more
frequently clash, and as your feelings are quicker than ours, your
temptations to it are more frequent. For this reason, be particularly
tender of the reputation of your own sex, especially when they happen to
rival you in our regards.’ Later on, there is a pathetic feeling of how
little he can foretell his daughters’ tastes. ‘I do not want to _make_
you anything, I want to know what Nature has made you, and to perfect
you on her plan.’

_A Father’s Legacy to his Daughter_ was intended only for his own girls,
and was not published till after Dr Gregory’s death. During his time in
Edinburgh he brought out besides his _Comparative View_, _Lectures on
the Duties and Qualifications of a Physician_, which were his
introductory lectures, and _Elements of the Practice of Physic_, a first
volume of a text-book for his students which he did not live to
complete. He thought medicine required a more comprehensive mind than
any other profession, and often brought much besides mere technical
knowledge into his lectures. As a speaker he was simple, natural and
vigorous. He lectured only from notes, ‘in a style happily attempered,’
said one of his contemporaries, ‘between the formality of studied
composition, and the ease of conversation.’ On one thing he insisted,
that every student should appreciate the limitations of medicine, for
only so could they learn to extend its borders.

During these years, too, he carried on a constant correspondence with
James Beattie, Professor of Moral Philosophy in Aberdeen, and a poet.
Both Beattie and Thomas Reid, who held the corresponding chair in
Glasgow, were engaged in combating the teaching of David Hume, which had
become very fashionable, and Gregory, though much attached to David Hume
as a man, feared him as a teacher, and dreaded the growth of that
scepticism which marked the time—a tendency quite as bitterly lamented
in England by Samuel Johnson.

‘I am well convinced,’ Gregory wrote to Beattie in a letter dated
Edinburgh, 16th June 1767, ‘that the great deference paid to our modern
heathens has been productive of the worst effects. Young people are
impressed with an idea of their being men of superior abilities, whose
genius has raised them above the vulgar prejudices, and who have spirit
enough to avow openly their contempt of them. Atheism and Materialism
are the present fashion. If one speak with warmth of an infinitely wise
and good Being, who sustains and directs the frame of nature, or
expresses his steady belief of a future state of existence, he gets
hints of his having either a very weak understanding, or of his being a
very great hypocrite.... You are the best man I know to chastise these
people as they deserve, you have more Philosophy and more wit than will
be necessary for the purpose, though you can never employ any of them in
so good a cause.’

When Beattie’s answer to Hume was in manuscript, he sent it to Dr
Gregory, who read it, and cordially approved of it, but one result of
this was that Gregory had to become a partaker in the acrimony of Hume’s
friends. His advices as to an attractive style were somewhat curious,
‘You are well aware of the antipathy, which the present race of readers
have against all abstract reasoning, except what is employed in defence
of the fashionable principles; but though they pretend to admire their
metaphysical champions, yet they never read them, nor if they did, could
they understand them. Among Mr Hume’s numerous disciples, I do not know
one who ever read his _Treatise on Human Nature_. In order, therefore,
to be read, you must not be satisfied with reasoning with justness and
perspicuity; you must write with pathos, with elegance, with spirit, and
endeavour to warm the imagination and touch the heart of those who are
deaf to the voice of reason. Whatever you write in the way of criticism
will be read, and, if my partiality to you does not deceive me, be
admired. Everything relating to the ‘Belles Lettres’ is read, or
pretended to be read. What has made Lord Kames’ _Elements of Criticism_
so popular in England, is his numerous illustrations and quotations from
Shakespeare.... This is a good political hint to you in your capacity of
an author.’

Gregory was also consulted about the sketch design of Beattie’s Poem,
_The Minstrel_, which he admired, and the closing stanza written by his
friend the poet, when he heard of Gregory’s death, was supposed to be
very beautiful poetry. Cowper wrote in one of his letters to the Rev.
William Unwin, ‘If you have not his poem called _The Minstrel_, and
cannot borrow it, I must beg you to buy it for me, for though I cannot
afford to deal largely in so expensive a commodity as books, I must
afford to purchase at least the poetical works of Beattie.’

Gregory’s views of his friend’s high gifts then were shared by Cowper.
Gray also held him in high estimation, and Mrs Siddons spent an
afternoon with Beattie, crying because they were so happy over poetry
and music, and some of the poetry must have been his own. As for
Beattie’s lines on Gregory, they are as much calculated to draw smiles
as tears from our eyes.

      ‘Adieu, ye lays that fancy’s flowers adorn,
      The soft amusement of the vacant mind!
      He sleeps in dust and all the Muses mourn,
      He whom each virtue fired, each grace refined,
      Friend, teacher, pattern, darling of mankind!
      He sleeps in dust: and how should I pursue
      My theme? To heart-consuming grief resigned,
      Here on his recent grave I fix my view,
      And pour my bitter tears. Ye flowery lays, adieu!

      Art thou, my Gregory, for ever fled?
      And am I left to unavailing woe?
      When fortune’s storms assail this weary head,
      Where cares long since have shed untimely snow,
      Ah, now, for comfort whither shall I go?
      No more thy soothing voice my anguish cheers,
      Thy placid eyes with smiles no longer glow,
      My hopes to cherish and allay my fears.
      ‘Tis meet that I should mourn, flow forth afresh my tears.’

Gregory wrote little upon religious subjects, except some chapters in
the _Comparative View_ and in the _Father’s Legacy_, but he spoke often
of the things which pertain to the Life Eternal. To him they were as
really present as the circumstances of every day.

His mind was deeply religious, but it was of that sort that lives more
by meditation than church-going. Though he was a Presbyterian himself,
he had his younger children brought up as Episcopalians, wishing them in
everything to be likened as much as possible to their mother.

One day in the beginning of February 1773, John Gregory was talking to
his son James about his health. His son told him that he feared it was
likely he would soon have a bad attack of gout, a disease from which he
had been entirely free for three years. Professor Gregory, who felt
himself in full vigour, and who was in the height of his work, was much
vexed with this prognosis. Gout was a dread enemy in his mother’s
family, and he always feared its visitations. He had suffered from it
more or less since he was eighteen, and the preface to the _Father’s
Legacy_ indicates his anticipation of an early death.

On the morning of the 10th he was found dead in bed. His face was
peaceful, everything was smooth and still, showing that death had come
gently. But the familiar presence had passed away for ever from his
home. It is said that Gregory had a great fear of darkness, and that
after his wife’s death he used to have an old woman come and sit by him
to hold his hand till he fell asleep, and if this is true, it is most
strange. He was forty-nine when he died.

John Gregory was succeeded in the chair by William Cullen, who, when his
time came, made room for James Gregory, the fourth incumbent of the
chair: a son of Dorothea Gregory, William Pulteney Alison was the sixth.

In appearance John Gregory was tall and strongly built. His face in
repose was kind, although too full and heavy to look clever; even his
eyes were dull. When he was talking there was a complete change.
Interest, life and expression transformed his features, until one could
hardly suppose him to be the same man. The charm of his manner has never
been gainsaid, and like the beauty of his wife, it is mentioned in every

After her father died, Dorothea went to live with her godmother, Mrs
Montague, under whose care she spent the rest of her unmarried life. She
was made very happy, and gave great pleasure wherever she went. She had
inherited, if not all her mother’s beauty, a great share of it, and her
nature was as sweet and strong as her father’s and mother’s in one. When
Sir William Pulteney, who had been a friend of her father’s, heard of
Dorothea’s engagement to the Rev. Archibald Alison, he wanted to satisfy
himself that she was making a suitable marriage, and with this object in
view went himself to see if all the good things that were said about the
bridegroom were true. He gives a pleasant description of the expedition.

‘Andrew Stuart and I accompanied Mr Alison to Thrapston, and the
marriage took place on the 19th, by a license from the Archbishop of
Canterbury. I conducted them afterwards to their residence, and we left
them next morning after breakfast, as happy as it is possible for people
to be. Mr Alison was obliged to come round by London, in order to take
an oath at granting the license, and I was glad of the opportunity which
the journey afforded me of making an acquaintance with him; for tho’ I
had little doubt that Miss Gregory had made a proper choice, yet I
wished to be perfectly satisfied, and the result is, that I think
neither you nor Mr Nairne have said a word too much in his favour.’

Dorothea Gregory’s two sons were William Pulteney Alison, Professor of
the Practice of Physic, and Sir Archibald Alison, the historian. Her
daughter Montague, before her marriage with Colonel Gerard, was loved by
Thomas Campbell, the poet, and by Francis Jeffrey.

Anna, John Gregory’s second daughter, married John Forbes, Esq. of
Blackford, in Aberdeenshire. William the second son went into the
Church, and was appointed one of the ‘six preachers’ in Canterbury
Cathedral. Of his sons one was a successful doctor in London, and
another, John, Governor of the Bahammas, was the father of Mr Philip
Spencer Gregory, who has already been referred to in this book.

Dr Gregory changed the spelling of his name from Gregorie to Gregory
during his stay in London. Curiously enough, the only other branch of
the Gregories who had up to that time emigrated to the south had made
the same alteration.

Professor John Gregory’s fame, while it may not have extended as widely
as that of his son, was yet far-reaching. When Beattie had an interview
with the king in 1773, His Majesty made special enquiries about his
First Physician for Scotland. This was probably shortly after the
professor’s death.

His life published in 1800 along with sketches of Lord Kames, David
Hume, and Adam Smith, ends with these words—

‘Upon the whole, whether he is considered as a man of genius and of the
world, or with regard to his conduct in the line of his profession, few
human characters will be found to equal that of the late Dr John

                               CHAPTER IX

                        JAMES GREGORY, 1753–1821

         ‘If in doubt, “lead with trumps,” is counsel so old
           As never to fail with the game in a fixture;
         And medical men, in their doubt, I am told,
           Are safe when they lead with—_Gregory’s Mixture_!’

                                                     —OLD PLAY.

It was in the middle of the session, 1772–73, that John Gregory died,
leaving as we know his work in full swing. The university authorities
were told, not of his illness, but of his death, and they were greatly
at a loss as to who should continue the course of lectures which
Professor Gregory had commenced with so much vigour. In this difficulty
it was that James Gregory his son stepped forward; although he was only
a medical student, he offered to deliver lectures on the Practice of
Physic till the end of the term, and this proposal was most gratefully
accepted by the university.

There is something which is perhaps not wholly unattractive in the idea
of being the professor as well as the student; but at nineteen to
lecture, and to lecture so well as to receive in consequence the offer
of a chair at twenty-three, is a triumph which is rare indeed.

James Gregory was born in Aberdeen in 1753, and even as a child his mind
always seems to have been keenly awake. He left the Grammar School of
Aberdeen when he was eleven, having learned all that was to be learned
there, and entered King’s College at an age at which clever boys now
leave a preparatory school.

In the same year when his father removed to Edinburgh James Gregory
entered that university, and there he spent the next years of his life.
Later he went up to Christ Church, Oxford, of which his cousin was then
dean. Oxford did not inspire him much, for indeed learning was then at a
very low level there, but he continued his work at classics, and came to
write Latin with fluency, Greek when there was occasion, and both ‘with
classical elegance,’ if we are to believe his admiring contemporaries.

It is probable that it was at Oxford that James Gregory resolved to
follow in his father’s footsteps, and become a doctor. There were of
course many inducements, and all the influence of his family would be
brought to bear on that side; but beyond this may we not believe that
visions were given him of the golden fame that a hitherto unimagined
mixture would bring to the name of Gregory unto all time? Whether the
vision was vouchsafed to him or not, he returned to Scotland and began
his medical studies in 1767.

It was a brilliant time in Edinburgh University. The medical
professoriate contained a number of remarkable men. Cullen was there who
had revolutionised medicine, Alexander Monro ‘Secundus,’ the greatest of
a great family, Black who was acknowledged by Lavoisier as the pioneer
of modern chemistry, John Hope the botanist and John Gregory. Under such
teachers as these James made rapid progress, and although there are no
tales of medals or prizes we cannot forget the instance of his medical
foresight when he predicted an attack of gout for his father, which
attack came, to his sorrow, so soon and so fatally after the prediction.

The Chair of the Practice of Physic was given to Cullen, and young
Gregory went to St George’s Hospital, London, to gain a wider
experience. He took his M.D. degree in Edinburgh in 1774: his thesis
entitled _De morbis Coeli Mutatione Medendis_ treats in detail Phthisis
Pulmonalis, Hypochondriasis, and Gout, and concludes by noticing the
advantage of change of air in the prolonging of human life. Startlingly
wide in subject as this thesis appears to us, it was greatly admired for
its style and minuteness, and thus Gregory, quitting Edinburgh for a
time of study on the continent, left behind him a very favourable
impression both of his talent and hard-working research.

Leyden, Paris, and Italy formed matter for enchanting letters which were
the delight of his friends. Where are those letters gone to? How
pleasant would it be to live through them a student’s life in these
years. Whatever James Gregory could be, he was never dull, and besides
in them we might have found the early tokens of that fierce temper which
is the only pity of his professional career in Edinburgh.

There are two portraits of Gregory, or rather a portrait[7] and a bust,
which were said to be very like. A tall man, large, ungainly, of a rare
presence. A man having authority impressed on every feature, radiant
with affection for his friends, intolerant of enemies, asking his own
way and getting his own way, loving, hating, thinking, speaking,
feeling, always with intensest ardour. Here was a man whom none of his
associates could regard dispassionately; they either loved him as a
friend or hated him as an enemy.

Footnote 7:

  The portrait is by Raeburn, and there is also a miniature of the
  professor by the same artist, which is in the possession of Mr Philip
  Spencer Gregory.

Even in Edinburgh which was full of personalities, real individuals, men
who were above all things themselves, Gregory stands out a great
original. Lord Cockburn and Sir Robert Christison were not inclined to
agree with each other on most subjects, yet about Gregory’s power there
is a refreshing unanimity in their opinions.

In June 1773 he was elected to the Chair of the Institutes of Medicine.
This chair had been practically vacant for three years, during which
time it was offered over and over again to Alexander Monro Drummond,
whose chief merit seems to have been that he united the names of the
great teaching Monroes with that of Drummond, perhaps the noblest
citizen Edinburgh has ever had. It has been suggested, however, that
this was only done to keep the appointment open for Gregory, when he
should have completed his studies, and certainly when he returned, his
election was unanimous. He entered upon his duties with happy vigour.
Teaching was, as with every Gregory, his greatest gift, and the classes
grew steadily all the time he was professor. The university never made
greater progress than it did about this time, the medical graduates
rising in number from about twenty in 1776 to one hundred and sixty in

In the teaching of his class Professor Gregory daily felt the need for
his students of a new book on the Theory of Medicine, so he wrote the
_Conspectus Medicinae Theoreticae_ which proved such a valuable handbook
on the subject. This book was most successful, it passed through many
editions, was translated into English and several other languages, was
used sometimes as a medical book and sometimes as a Latin text, for the
Latin was as much admired as the information which it imparted.
Considering the success of this volume, it is surprising that this was
James Gregory’s only medical publication: he alas wrote many books
afterwards, but with the exception of some chapters on philology and
some literary essays, he wrote nothing but controversial works,
prodigiously long, violent, personal, and acrid; their only excuse that
they were never written for selfish ends and their only merit that they
were a source of infinite amusement to the general public.

Gregory lived in his father’s old house, No. 15 Canongate, and to this
home he brought his first wife, the gentle Galloway girl, called Mary
Ross, whose companionship was his, for such a short time in life’s
journey. She died in 1784. In the years following her death he resumed
his early classical studies, and it is a rather curious fact that he
wrote nearly all the Latin epitaphs or dedications which were wanted for
any purpose in Edinburgh from this time till his death. Principal
Shairp, referring to Burns’ meeting with Gregory at Ochtertyre,
describes how the poet ‘was charmed with the conversation of that last
of the Scottish line of Latinists, which began with Buchanan and ended
with Gregory.’

In 1787, he published his essay on the _Theory of Moods and Verbs_, and
in 1792, _Philosophical_ and _Literary Essays_. He was a great student
of words, loved epigram, and spent much of his leisure in translating
poetry. He was also interested in metaphysics, but as his great maxim
was that in metaphysics there could be no discovery, his writings on
this subject do not appear to have added much to his fame. Throughout
these years, too, he kept up a constant correspondence with his cousin
Thomas Reid, and proved himself just the appreciative critic that Reid
required in the writing of his books. Dugald Stewart and Gregory
together revised the proofs of Reid’s _Essays on the Intellectual
Powers_, and to them this book was dedicated.

‘I send you,’ writes Reid, ‘what I propose as the title of my Essays,
with an epistle which I hope you and Mr Stewart will allow me to prefix
to them. Whether your name should go first on account of your doctor’s
degree, or Mr Stewart’s, I leave you to adjust between yourselves. I
know not how to express my obligations to you both for the aid you have
given me.’

Towards the end of 1790 it became apparent that Cullen, the greatest
doctor of his time was failing in strength, and on his resigning the
Chair of the Practice of Physic the Town Council reappointed him in
kindly recognition of his great services to the university, but
appointed James Gregory to be joint-professor during his lifetime with
the sole right of survivorship. This comradeship did not last long, for
in the same year Cullen died. To no less strong man could the task of
succeeding this veteran teacher, who had raised the reputation of the
Edinburgh School to such a height, have been wisely entrusted.

As Professor of the Theory of Physic, Gregory had shown remarkable
gifts, but in his new subject his teaching was superb. Sir Robert
Christison in his autobiography, says of him, ‘Equal in fluency as in
choice of language, he surpassed all lecturers I have ever heard. His
doctrines were set forth with great clearness and simplicity in the form
of a commentary on Cullen’s _First Lines of the Practice of Physic_. His
measures for the cure of disease were sharp and incisive. In acute
diseases there was no ‘médecine expectante’ for Gregory, he somehow left
us with the impression that we were to be masters over nature in all
such diseases, that they must of necessity give way before the physician
who is early enough and bold enough in encountering them.’ He had a
memory so clear that he was never known to forget a case, and in his
lectures he made his students see not only the general features of a
disease, but an actual case of it which had come under his care. He used
stories and history, and his own experience to vivify his lectures, and
no doubt he succeeded for he had seen many sides of life. He never had
time for more than two-thirds of his subject in one course, but whatever
he missed out he always discussed fevers and inflammations. In much that
he taught he was in advance of his age. In observing how frequently
rheumatic fever tends to heart disease; in limiting the use of
blood-letting[8] at a time when it was becoming almost a universal
panacea with doctors, in urging a liberal dietary in certain stages of
consumption, and in the invention and use of his mixture he showed that
his views were in advance of those held by most of his brother
physicians. Professor Gregory had an odd habit of wearing his cocked hat
while he lectured.

Footnote 8:

  In whole classes of cases, however, Gregory was a decided advocate of

It was in the summer of 1796 that dear old Thomas Reid, who was becoming
very frail, was induced to pay a visit to St Andrew’s Square, to which
Gregory had migrated. His daughter, Mrs Carmichael, was anxious to have
the opinion of Dr Gregory, as to whether there was anything she could do
to retard the bodily decay which increased daily in her father. It was a
happy time to them all. Gregory delighted in the keenness of the old
man’s mind. As he was not fit for much exercise, he passed his time in
solving algebraical problems, and discussing abstruse subjects with
Dugald Stewart. Gregory was no doubt busy. His practice increased daily,
and besides this, he probably spent a good deal of his time in the house
of Mr M’Leod of Geanies, the Sheriff of Ross-shire; to whose daughter,
Isabella, he was married on the 19th of October, just ten days after
Thomas Reid’s death.

Miss M’Leod was a very beautiful girl, both winning and attractive, if
Raeburn’s portrait of her is true to life, and she made both a good wife
and good mother. Among Raeburn’s other portraits, and interesting to us
because they were the friends of the Gregories, are such men as Dugald
Stewart, Principal Robertson, Blair, Home, Ferguson, Mackenzie, Francis
Horner, and Jeffrey. How much is it Raeburn, one wonders, who makes
these men and women so charming, for it is their looks and what we know
of their lives, far more than their writings, that attract us. Principal
Robertson, with all his sweetness and dignity, has only written
histories which are now superseded. Jeffrey railed at Wordsworth.
Blair’s sermons are but a lingering tradition. The eloquence of Dugald
Stewart, which brought Melbourne, Lord John Russell, and Palmerston to
Edinburgh University, is now forgotten. It is not by their books that we
know these men, it is because we love them when we see their portraits;
it is because Cockburn lets us know them in their homes—it is because
John Brown, who lived early enough to be in touch with those who
remembered them, has written about them lovingly and tenderly. They were
delightful men, but more delightful in their lives than in their books.
The witty criticisms of the _Edinburgh Review_ have passed away; they
were for their day—but the remembrance of Jeffrey’s pleasant
after-intercourse with Wordsworth, the kindliness with which Gregory
welcomed all the young Edinburgh reviewers into his house at a time when
no other Tories except the ‘man of feeling’ and Archibald Alison would
receive them, and the occasional permission which Principal Robertson
gave little Henry Cockburn to feast off his cherry tree—these are
memories which will appeal to the kindly hearts of all time.

Then it is amusing to read Dr Gregory’s critical letter to Burns, who
must have required all his admiration for the great doctor to bear
patiently the numerous suggestions which he showered upon him.

                  *       *       *       *       *

                                            ‘EDINBURGH, _2nd June 1789_.

‘DEAR SIR,—I take the first leisure hour I could command, to thank you
for your letter and the copy of verses enclosed in it. As there is real
poetic merit, I mean both fancy and tenderness, and some happy
expressions, in them, I think they well deserve that you should revise
them carefully and polish them to the utmost. This I am sure you can do
if you please, for you have great command both of expression and of
rhymes; and you may judge, from the two last pieces of Mrs Hunter’s
poetry that I gave you, how much correctness and high polish enhance the
value of such compositions. As you desire it, I shall with great freedom
give you my _most rigorous_ criticisms on your verses. I wish you would
give me another edition of them, much amended, and I will send it to Mrs
Hunter, who, I am sure, will have much pleasure in reading it. Pray give
me likewise for myself, and her too, a copy (as much amended as you
please) of the “Waterfowl on Loch Turit.”

‘The “Wounded Hare” is a pretty good subject, but the measure or stanza
you have chosen for it is not a good one: it does not _flow_ well; and
the rhyme of the fourth line is almost lost by its distance from the
first, and the two interposed, close rhymes. If I were you I would put
it into a different stanza yet.

‘Stanza 1.—The execrations in the first two lines are too strong or
coarse, but they may pass. “Murder-aiming” is a bad compound epithet and
not very intelligible. “Blood-stained” in Stanza III. line 4 has the
same fault: _Bleeding_ bosom is infinitely better. You have accustomed
yourself to such epithets and have no notion how stiff and quaint they
appear to others and how incongruous with poetic fancy and tender
sentiments. Suppose Pope had written “Why that bloodstained bosom gored”
how would you have liked it? _Form_ is neither a poetic nor a dignified
nor a plain common word: it is a mere sportsman’s word: unsuitable to
pathetic or serious poetry.

“Mangled” is a coarse word. “Innocent,” in this sense, is a nursery
word; but both may pass.

‘Stanza 4. “Who will now provide that life a mother only can bestow”
will not do at all: it is not grammar—it is not intelligible. Do you
mean “provide for that life which the mother had bestowed and used to
provide for?” There was a ridiculous slip of the pen, “Feeling” (I
suppose) for “Fellow,” in the title of your copy of the verses; but even
“fellow” would be wrong: it is but a colloquial and vulgar word,
unsuitable to your sentiments. “Shot” is improper too. On seeing a
_person_ (or a sportsman) wound a hare: it is needless to add with what
weapon; but if you think otherwise, you should say with a
_fowling-piece_. Let me see you when you come to town, and I will shew
you some more of Mrs Hunter’s poems.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps when Burns submitted his lines, ‘On seeing a wounded hare limp
by me, which a fellow had just shot at,’ he hoped for as kindly a
criticism as Dr Gregory had given to Clarinda’s verses, which the poet
had shown him in December 1787; but if so, he was much disappointed. ‘Dr
Gregory is a good man, but he crucifies me,’ wrote Burns soon after; and
again, ‘I believe in the iron justice of Dr Gregory; but like the devils
I believe and tremble.’ It was a curious friendship, but friendship it
was. There is an English translation of Cicero, which the physician had
given to Burns in Edinburgh in 1787, and on the fly-leaf of this is
written, ‘This book, a present from the truly worthy and learned Dr
Gregory, I shall preserve to my latest hour as a mark of the gratitude,
esteem and veneration I bear the owner—so help me God.—Robert Burns.’
Clarinda’s desire to make Gregory’s acquaintance which is surely an
indication of how much her Sylvander admired him, finds utterance in a
letter of 1787, ‘Pray is Dr Gregory pious? I have heard so, I wish I
knew him.’

It was at Lord Monboddo’s that Gregory first met Burns. Besides the
queer old judge, who was made a laughing stock for saying that men
originally had tails, there was his charming daughter, the beautiful
Miss Burnet, to whom Gregory is said to have offered his heart and hand.

One of the stories that Lord Cockburn tells of Gregory is in connection
with Miss Sophia Johnston (generally known in the Edinburgh of that day
as ‘Suphy’) one of the Hilton family; about whom, because of her curious
upbringing, there were many odd stories. ‘When Suphy’s day was visibly
approaching, Dr Gregory prescribed abstinence from animal food, and
recommended “spoon-meat” unless she wished to die. “Dee, doctor, odd,
I’m thinking they’ve forgotten an auld wife like me up yonder!” However,
when he came back next day, the doctor found her at the spoon-meat,
supping a haggis—she was remembered.’

Gregory lived now, as we know, in St Andrew Square, having left the old
home in the Canongate, but besides this he bought a house called Canaan
Lodge, which was then at a sufficient distance from Edinburgh to be in
the real country. Walking towards this house he might often be seen of
an evening with his all too warlike stick over his shoulder, possibly
the very stick with which he smote his brother physician Professor
Hamilton within the sacred precincts of the university. The story does
not end here, nor even at the Law Courts, where he was made to pay £100
damages to the infuriated object of his attack, but with Gregory, who as
usual had the last word, and the last laugh in the matter, and said as
he paid his fine, that he would willingly pay double for another chance.

                   ‘A’ the country, far and near,
                   Hae heard Macgregor’s fame, lady.

                   He was a hedge about his friends,
                   A heckle to his foes, lady;
                   If any man did him gainsay,
                   He felt his deadly blows, lady.

It is really a pity, but no sketch of Professor James Gregory could be
adequate without mentioning some of the more important of his
professional feuds. Take the Infirmary for example, with which he was
connected from so early a date as 1777, and where he made one of the
most sweeping and necessary reforms that have ever taken place in the
management of that institution. He early saw that it was neither for the
good of the patients, nor for the good of the students, that the
physicians and surgeons should attend the wards for only a month at a
time, and against this he set himself with all the zeal of which he was
capable. He disapproved the time-honoured privilege enjoyed by every
member of the Royal College of Physicians, and every member of the Royal
College of Surgeons, to doctor the Infirmary patients; and getting more
and more enraged with the infatuation of his medical brethren, he
presented a memorial to the managers of the Infirmary, expounding his
views, that Infirmary appointments should be made either for life, or at
least for a number of years, but unfortunately doing so in language, of
which the following paragraph is but one specimen:—

‘Let us suppose that in consequence of this memorial, every individual
member of the College of Surgeons shall to his own share, make forty
times more noise than Orlando Furioso did at full moon when he was
maddest, and shall continue in that unparalleled state of uproar for
twenty years without ceasing. I can see no great harm in all that noise,
and no harm at all to any but those who make it. Ninety-nine parts in
the hundred of all that noise would of course be bestowed on me, whom it
would not deprive of one hour’s natural sleep, and to whom it would
afford infinite amusement and gratification while I am awake,’ etc.

Such bitter writing was not, however, solely on one side. On another
occasion, by the consent of the Royal College of Physicians, ‘A
narrative of the conduct of Dr James Gregory towards the Royal College
of Physicians of Edinburgh’ was published, which opens with this ominous
paragraph, ‘It is with great pain, that the Royal College of Physicians,
not a numerous, but hitherto, they trust, a very respectable society,
find themselves compelled to come before the public with a narrative of
their internal dissensions. The intemperate and injurious conduct of one
of their members however has now made this a matter of necessity. Like
other collections of individuals, they have had their dissensions and
disagreements, but till very lately they were always conducted with the
temper and the language of gentlemen, and were begun and ended within
the walls of the College. Dr James Gregory has introduced a new style
and a new jurisdiction.’

There is not much to choose between in these samples of professional
controversy, but on the whole Gregory was usually more right in his
views, and more wrong in his expression, than the other side. In spite
of these quarrels Gregory’s practice increased steadily. In 1818 his
professional income was £2723, and in the following year £100 more,
while in the same years he derived from his professorship by way of
fees, £1364 and £1200 respectively. These figures represented a much
larger sum in 1818 than they would in 1900, and give a substantial proof
of Gregory’s popularity.

A story told of Professor Gregory is peculiarly touching. One day when
he was giving out the tickets for his class, he had to go into another
room to fetch something. When he came back he saw a student, who was
waiting for his ticket, take some money off his table and put it into
his pocket. The Professor gave him his pass and said nothing, but just
as the lad was leaving the room, he rose up and laying his hand on his
shoulder said, ‘I saw what you did, and I am so sorry. I know how great
must have been your need before you would take money. Keep it, keep it,’
he added, seeing that the student meant to give the stolen money back to
him, ‘but for God’s sake, never do it again.’

Sir Walter Scott has remembered also how Professor Gregory on one
occasion gave a very ready reply to a learned member of the Scottish
Bar. He was giving evidence about a man, who in his opinion, was insane.
On a cross-examination, the professor was obliged to admit that the
person in question played an admirable game of whist. The eminent
counsel thought he had made a point. ‘And do you seriously say, Doctor,’
he added, ‘that a person having a superior capacity for a game so
difficult, and which requires in a pre-eminent degree, memory, judgment,
and combination, can be at the same time deranged in his understanding?’
‘I am no card player,’ replied the doctor, ‘but I have read in history
that cards were invented for the amusement of an insane king.’ Needless
to say, he won his case!

In 1818 Gregory had a serious carriage accident, in which his arm was
broken, and from this shock he never really recovered, though we still
see him in the midst of work. He was one of a deputation from the
University of Edinburgh to congratulate George IV. on his accession to
the throne, and while in London he received the honour of a private
audience of the king. During that visit his thoughts went back often to
his time of study in London, and to all the prosperity that had come to
him since. He had received almost every honour which his profession
could bring him. He had been President of the College of Physicians. He
was made king’s physician to George III., and his commission had been
most graciously renewed (during this visit) by George IV. Innumerable
societies had bestowed their honorary membership upon him, and many
towns had given him the privilege of their freedom, but he felt that his
days were nearly over.

During the last year he had attacks of difficulty of breathing, which
made it impossible for him to lecture after Christmas 1820. The end came
in April. He died of hydro-thorax at the age of sixty-eight.

Of Gregory’s eleven children only five survived him. Two of them were in
their turn to become teachers. William, afterwards Professor of
Chemistry in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and Duncan Farquharson, the
Cambridge mathematician.

There was not lacking one token of the love and esteem in which the
great professor was held. The voices of his rivals were hushed. His
friends mourned for him, and the town where he had been such a familiar
figure arranged a public funeral for him. He lies buried in the family
vault in the Canongate Churchyard.


                               CHAPTER X

                       WILLIAM GREGORY, 1803–1858

        ‘Were it of hoot, or cold, or moyste, or drye,
        And where they engendered and of what humour,
        He was a verray parfit praktisour.’

                                  —CHAUCER, _Prologue_ 420–422.

William Gregory was the last of this great academic family to hold a
chair in a Scottish University.

He was the fourth son of Professor James Gregory, and having been
brought up among the traditions of medicine, he turned to the study of
it instinctively, though the necessity laid upon him was by no means the
same as that which had made his forefathers physicians in spite of
themselves. He had not gone far in his medical course when he decided to
be a chemist rather than a doctor. The magic of Professor Hope’s
experiments made at least one convert and as he sat in the class-room
observing the strange effects of chemicals, he made up his mind that if
it were possible he would some day take the teacher’s place. With rude
implements he would spend hours at home repeating the processes which he
had watched in the class, his mind all alive to the interest of his
subject, and his poor body much neglected. These happy hours in his
laboratory were dearly paid for by the delicacy, which began to show
itself about this time. The noxious fumes of the chemicals acted as a
slow poison, and from this stage of his life he had to struggle with ill
health, all his occupations being interrupted at times by unconquerable

He graduated M.D. in 1828, and then went abroad to study chemistry in
the famous schools of the continent. At Giessen, the most important of
these, he had the good fortune to attract the attention of the great
teacher, whose work had made the university famous, and from this time
forward, Liebig was the friend and correspondent of William Gregory.

During the years when Gregory was completing his studies abroad, and
teaching successively in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dublin, King’s College,
Aberdeen, was going through considerable difficulties in connection with
the post of mediciner. In the days of John Gregory’s tenure of that
office, he had as we already know, made efforts to improve the medical
curriculum there, but without success. A step in advance was made in
1801, when it was determined that a candidate for the degree of M.D.
must ‘oblidge himself that he is not, nor will be concerned in the sale
of quack medicines of any description!’ and a further step was taken in
1817 by the authorities insisting on a satisfactory account of the
‘classical, literary and scientifical education of the candidate.’

Between 1824 and 1826, an attempt was made by the Chancellor and Senatus
to insist that the mediciner should teach medicine, but Dr Bannerman,
who then held that office, would only consent to consider the matter for
a year, and after that time he let it rest. In 1836, he was advised that
if he would neither teach nor appoint a substitute, a lecturer would be
chosen, and paid out of his salary. This threat, however, was never
carried out, and he died in 1838, and it was to this post of mediciner,
made vacant by his death, that William Gregory was appointed on February
19th, 1839.

Dr William Pulteney Alison, to whom the electors of King’s College
applied for suggestions as to a suitable candidate, had curiously enough
never mentioned the name of his cousin, and it was only owing to the
intervention of Thomas Clark who held the Chair of Chemistry in
Marischal College that Gregory came to apply. After giving him minute
instructions as to the form which his application must take, he added,
‘Don’t mention me no more than the Devil.’ The name of this friend was
therefore kept out of sight, and Gregory was in due course appointed to
the vacant professorship. It was with great joy that his advent was
announced to the professors of King’s College. Their difficulties in
improving the medical course, when the very mediciner would not teach a
class, had been insuperable, but now they felt a man of influence was
coming amongst them, who would be the means of promoting the interests
of their university, and who would give the benefit of a hereditary
power of teaching to the students, whom they felt sure his great name
would attract to their midst.

While in Aberdeen William Gregory became intensely interested in the
welfare of King’s College, and busied himself in trying to secure
revenue from the government to found new chairs, but in this he was

He taught Materia Medica in a house fitted up for a Medical School in
Kingsland Place, and he had a good class, but from the witticisms of the
students as to the effect of their professor’s preparation of muriate of
morphia it is evident that William Gregory’s physical weakness was
growing upon him, and that it was only with the most strenuous effort
that he could get to his class at ten o’clock.

As his power of walking failed him, the professor found much solace in
music, and sweet snatches of melody were carried across his
old-fashioned garden to the ears of passers-by. He played beautifully,
and his wife, who was a niece of Colonel Scott of Gala, added greatly to
the charms of their musical parties. It is said that they were the first
to shock the people of Aberdeen by playing secular music on Sunday.

To the Aberdonians, however, he gave a more serious cause for
complaint—William Gregory was of a singularly childlike and trustful
disposition, and he was intensely interested in the occult science of
Spiritualism; the result was that he became the patron of a most
undesirable throng of quasi-scientific humbugs, whose presence in their
midst they resented with extreme frankness. There is a continual
atmosphere of table-turning, mesmerism and magnetic flames in the tales
extant about him, and though the narrators are tender about his memory,
they have perforce to take up the attitude of counsel for the defence.

As a chemist, he undoubtedly came first in Scotland. He invented
processes for the more perfect preparation of hydrochloric acid, muriate
of morphia and oxyde of silver, besides making important observations on
many other chemicals. He had an accurate command of practical chemistry,
a power of condensation and clear expression, and a just perception of
the value of discoveries, which made his writings unsurpassed for the
use of students.

In 1844 Dr William Gregory realised the dream of his youth. After a
sharp contest with Dr Lyon Playfair, he was appointed to succeed
Professor Hope in his chair in the University of Edinburgh. ‘The chair
was given to him,’ says Sir Alexander Grant, ‘under a new title, for the
Town Council now judiciously omitted “Medicine” from its province, and
elected Dr Gregory to be Professor of Chemistry.’

His health was much impaired, so much so, that people even went the
length of saying that he was physically unfit for his new position, and
it is at any rate true that his finest teaching was given to his
students in Aberdeen. He was an able teacher, if at times erratic and
absent-minded. His class was always kept wide awake, for with what
alarms would not the professor bring back the straying imaginations of
his audience! ‘Gentlemen,’ he would say, while with his long awkward
fingers he lifted up the tube of some chemical before them, ‘If this
were to fall, not one of you could reach the door alive;’ and then,
considering the matter over, he would place the tube carelessly upon the
edge of a plate, while the students near the doorway filtered through
it, and the others, hat in hand, awaited the longed-for close of the
lecture, feeling a fresh tremor with every approach of Gregory’s loose
fingers to the fatal vial.

Good as his teaching was, the books which he wrote while in Edinburgh
were his most valuable contribution to the Science of Chemistry. In the
preface to the _Outlines of Chemistry_, which was published in 1845, he
sketched the divisions which he intended to make in his subject for the
fuller elucidation of the facts, and, had his health permitted him to
carry out his plan, ‘the instruction from his class would probably have
been more complete than from any other scientific chair in Europe.’ At
the request of Liebig, he translated several of his more important books
into English, and in the preface to the _Familiar Letters on Chemistry_,
Liebig writes, ‘From his intimate familiarity with chemical science, and
especially with the physiological subjects here treated, I am confident
that the task could not have been entrusted to better hands than those
of my friend Dr Gregory.’ Their friendship lasted throughout life, and
only a few days before Professor Gregory’s death, he was propped up in
his bed to write a pamphlet supporting some new theories of Liebig,
which the German had just communicated to him.

Gregory’s appearance was most noticeable. He was of great proportions,
obese, slouching and loosely hung together. In later years his body was
a great burden to him, but the mind kept the mastery.

He was, like his father, a keen student of language, and would wile away
many of the weary hours of forced inaction by the study of foreign
tongues. French and German were to him as familiar as English. With a
microscope, too, he did beautiful work, and was in his day, the greatest
authority on the Diatomaceae. The slides which he made of these
microscopic water-plants with their sculptured valves, were another
resource of his declining years. He presented valuable memoirs on this
subject to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of which he was a member.

Professor William Gregory died in Edinburgh in April 1858, and was
honoured with a public funeral.

He was succeeded in the university by Dr Lyon Playfair (afterwards Lord
Playfair) who had contested the chair unsuccessfully at the time of
Gregory’s appointment.

William Gregory was survived by an only son, who was called after his
father’s far-famed friend, James Liebig Gregory.

Duncan Farquharson Gregory was considerably younger than his brother the
Professor of Chemistry, and was not at all like him in personal
appearance. His face was a beautiful one, fine, pale, bearing on it
already in this life some of the light and joyousness that often mark
out for especial love those who are to pass quickly from this earth. His
hair, which was thick and curling, fell more about his brow than is
usual, and his eyes like dark lamps illuminated his features.

When he was hardly more than a baby, his father used fondly to predict
distinction for him. ‘He had pleasure in conversing with him as with an
equal on subjects of History and Geography,’ so Mr Ellis wrote, and this
when the boy was not more than six, for his father died before he had
left the nursery. He was a great inventor of games for himself, and made
an orrery with his busy little hands, on which he would send the planets
spinning round in their orbits.

Till he was nine years old he was taught entirely by his mother, who was
quite as attractive to her children as she had ever been in society, and
for whom Duncan had always a peculiar reverence and affection. He passed
out of her hands into the care of a tutor, and then was sent to the
Edinburgh Academy. From school he went abroad to Geneva, where his
mother and sisters were spending a winter, and on his return he attended
classes at the University of Edinburgh. In mathematics he made
astonishing strides, under Professor Wallace, and those who saw the
master and pupil together in Cambridge in after days, said that the old
man’s pride in his pupil’s success never diminished.

In 1833 Mr Gregory’s name was entered at Trinity College, Cambridge, and
shortly afterwards he went to reside there. He took with him a most
unusual amount of knowledge on almost all scientific subjects, in fact
many men said that it was the diffuseness of his learning that prevented
him from taking the first place in the mathematical honours in that
university; for when the tripos came he was only fifth wrangler.

A few months after his arrival in Cambridge he agreed to act as
assistant to the Professor of Chemistry, and he was one of the founders
of the Chemical Society, and occasionally gave very charming lectures in
their rooms. His other pursuits were botany, natural philosophy, and
astronomy, but his most serious study was of course mathematics.

After taking his degree of B.A. in 1837, he felt himself more at liberty
to follow original speculation, and turned his attention to the general
theory of the combination of symbols. His studies in this subject
appeared from time to time in the _Cambridge Mathematical Journal_, of
which Duncan Farquharson Gregory was editor, with only an interval of a
few months, from its first appearance till shortly before his death.

Mr Gregory was in 1840 elected a Fellow of Trinity College, and he took
his M.A. degree in the following year. In that year, too, he was
appointed to fill the office of moderator in the Mathematical Tripos.
This position, which is regarded as one of the most honourable of those
to which the younger members of the university may aspire, was filled by
him with great success.

His most considerable book (though possibly less well known than his
lucid work on solid geometry), appeared about this time. It is entitled
_Collection of Examples of the Processes of the Differential and
Integral Calculus_, and was thoughtful and original. At first his plan
had been to edit a second edition of a work with a similar title, which
twenty-five years before had come from the pens of Herschel, Peacocke,
and Babbage, but as he considered this, he discovered what immense
strides had been made in the general aspect of mathematics. The
mathematical theories of heat, light, electricity, and magnetism were
all new, and they required a fresh treatment. Thus he undertook the book
which brought him so much honour.

Gregory had an absolute passion for mathematics. ‘All these things seem
to me,’ he said once, while turning over the pages of Fourier’s great
work on heat, ‘to be a kind of mathematical paradise,’ and the enjoyment
comes out all through his book.

He contested unsuccessfully with Professor Kelland the Chair of
Mathematics in the University of Edinburgh, and in 1841 was offered the
corresponding chair in Toronto, which, however, he declined; and it was
well that he did so, for in the following year he had the first attack
of the illness which was to end fatally for him. In the spring he left
Cambridge never to return again.

Up to the last he had taken part in his college work, and in spite of
severe suffering had gone through the irksome labour of examinations.
Months of all but constant pain followed, brightened only by short
intervals of ease. Whenever these occurred he turned to his old studies
for refreshment, and only a little while before his death he began a
paper on the analogy between differential equations and those in finite

As the weeks passed, the watchful eyes of his sister could see the
gradual failing of his strength, and at five o’clock on the morning of
February 23rd, 1844, he passed away in his sleep. He died at Canaan

His sister, Miss Georgina Gregory, made a collection of the poems
written by her brothers. Some of Mr Duncan Gregory’s verses would have
made delightful children’s poetry. One time when they had gone to the
English lakes together for change of air, they, as is not an entirely
unknown experience in that part of the world, had to spend most of their
time in the inn, and as a last resource fell to writing doggerel.

                   ‘The fields are one extensive bog,
                     The roads are just as bad;
                   I wish I were a little frog,
                     Then rain would make me glad.

                   But I am of the human race,
                     Which ever since the flood
                   Prefers a firm, dry resting-place
                     To wading in the mud.

                   But yet at last a little gleam
                     Of sunshine did appear,
                   And did most treacherously seem
                     As if the sky would clear.

                   And trusting to its specious face
                     To walk Georgina tried,
                   But soon returned in piteous case
                     To have her garments dried.’

He was a delightful brother and a delightful friend. What he might have
done as a mathematician had he but lived it is impossible to tell. As it
is, a writer who has discussed the hereditary qualities of the family,
speaks of the mathematical genius, which had lain dormant since the time
of James Gregorie as ‘blazing forth’ again in Duncan Farquharson
Gregory, and if this writer passes over such talents as those of David
Gregory, the Savilian Professor at Oxford, he must have held the Fellow
of Trinity in great honour. Another authority on the family, said that
if Duncan Gregory were alive, which he might quite well be as far as
dates are concerned, he would probably have been the most famous pure
mathematician of the day. And a still greater testimony is that of Lord
Kelvin, given at the Bristol meeting of the British Association in 1898,
where in a paper on ‘Graphic Representations of the two Simplest Cases
of a Single Wave,’ he referred to Gregory’s work on this subject.
‘Gregory,’ he said, ‘died too soon,’ and as he turned from the
black-board on which he had been drawing some diagrams, he added, ‘we
cannot tell what we might have known if Gregory had lived.’ His talent
was appreciated when he lived, but the qualities to which his friends
reverted with most tenderness were his unenvious appreciation of other
men’s work, his sweetness and joyfulness, and the patience with which he
bore his last long illness.

                               CHAPTER XI


    ‘Whatever he had in himself, he would fain have made out a
    hereditary claim for.’—LOCKHART, _Life of Scott_, ch. lxxxiv.

When Pennant on his famous tour through Scotland, came to the dreary
moorland below Craigroyston, he was filled with special interest by the
scene. Here, he was told, was the cradle of the M’Gregors, a clan so
devoid of kindness, that they had been hunted down like wild beasts,
their name suppressed and their remnant dispersed like Jews over the
country. ‘And even now,’ he added, ‘their posterity are still said to be
distinguished among the clans in which they have incorporated
themselves, not only by the redness of their hair, but by their still
retaining the mischievous disposition of their ancestors.’ What then,
would Pennant have said, could he have known that from one descendant of
a MacGregor would arise a family, thirteen of whom would be mentioned in
the Encyclopædias of 1900? After all it should be remembered that even
Rob Roy’s literary tastes have never been sufficiently appreciated, for
his name is found in the original list of the subscribers to Keith’s
_History of the Affairs of Church and State in Scotland_, published in

The Gregories, then, were inclined to an academic life. Their portraits
appear oddly and unexpectedly in the public buildings of this country,
their names equally unexpectedly in many books; but their teaching which
was the greatest gift they had to offer to their fellowmen can of course
no longer be adequately appreciated. The very greatness of a teacher,
which leads him to speak directly to the body of men before him with the
needs, the ignorance, the prejudices, and the fancies of their age,
makes his teaching unintelligible to any time but his own, to a
preceding age, if it were possible, darkness, to a succeeding,

Going back to the beginning, how many times should we wish to thank one
or other of the Gregories for their hard hitting at the shams and
insincerities of their day! The Rev. John Gregorie, the founder of the
family, began by withstanding Cant in the body, and overlooking the
upturned sand-glass which that divine had set for him, taught his own
views even though they were not accepted by his self-complacent opponent
as the ‘orthodox doctrein.’ He after all, uninteresting as he perhaps
appeared to be, is still the forerunner of the family greatness, and
that not only as their first father, but because he showed an example of
independence in opinion to his own children and to theirs—when the time
should come that their grandfather’s history would be told them by the
fire of a winter’s night.

One of his sons, David of Kinairdy, possessed the first barometer in
Scotland, an innovation for which he nearly paid with his life. Another,
Professor James Gregorie (the first), because he too rapidly realised
the greatness of Newton’s philosophy, and taught it, came under the ban
of his fellow-professors at St Andrews, and was glad when the
opportunity presented itself to receive the approbation of a sister
university, more ready for his teaching. He, too, invented the first
reflecting telescope, through which things are seen as they appear to
one’s eyes, and not upside down as had been the case with earlier
telescopes. This also in its way was a parable of what the Gregories
were to do in the world of science in making things as plain as
possible, so that the wayfaring men though fools, might not err therein.
David the son and David the grandson both did most of their work at
Oxford, the first teaching mathematics, and endeavouring to bring
Newton’s _Principia_ down to the level of ordinary mathematicians, while
the second, who was Professor of Modern History and Modern Languages,
having been much abroad, arranged to have the assistance of foreign
teachers, whom he supported, not only with his influence, but with his
purse. There were other mathematicians descended from David of Kinairdy,
who, it may be remembered, had three sons professors of mathematics at
one time, and of this branch of the family also were Alexander Innes and
Thomas Reid, both professors of philosophy.

Reverting to the descendants of Professor James Gregorie—the son,
grandsons, great-grandson, and great-great-grandsons, were founders or
builders, all of them of medical education in Scotland, each doing his
own part for the cause of medicine. James the son, called the third
professor of that name (for one of his mathematical cousins was the
second), was recognised and honoured as ‘the founder’ of the Medical
School at Aberdeen, though the foundations indeed must lie very deep,
for by no amount of digging can traces of them be discovered. Professor
John the grandson (his half-brother, Professor James the fourth, was
inconsiderable), the fellow-worker with Cullen, accepted and taught that
great doctor’s views, and with his charming good-sense eradicated many
of the more prejudicial items of children’s upbringing. The
great-grandson, Professor James (the fifth), more than took his father’s
place as a teacher, and setting the medical world of Edinburgh at
defiance, made one of the most sweeping reforms that has ever taken
place in the history of clinical teaching in that university. He was
also one of the great leaders in the volunteer movement. The
great-great-grandsons, Professor William Gregory and Professor William
Pulteney Alison, were professors both of them in the Medical Faculty of
the Edinburgh University, and taught their subjects in the lucid and
original way, which was the gift of the whole family. Duncan Farquharson
Gregory was the only one of the descendants of James Gregorie, the great
contemporary of Newton, who followed in his footsteps as a
mathematician. He died in his thirtieth year, but left behind him a
brilliant record of his life’s work, which is only sad because it was so

These Gregories, though they did not care for popularity, or possibly
because they did not care for popularity, and never went out of their
way to attain it, usually ended by being on the winning side—that is to
say, public opinion often changed from being against them to being with
them. They had such a gift of laughing at the right time, of passing
over the bitterness of their adversaries, and even exposing the
partisanship of their allies. Take the story which Sir Archibald Alison
gives us in his autobiography, of how a mathematical examination was
once rearranged for his benefit in the University of Edinburgh. It was
in the time of Professor Leslie, in the spring of 1808, that this
examination in the class of mathematics took place. Archibald Alison had
three very able competitors. These were Borthwick of Crookston, J.
M’Pherson Macleod, and Mr Edward Irving. Young Alison, nervous and
excitable in face of the examination paper, became suddenly destitute of
ideas, and could only solve two of the six problems which were set. It
was all the more distressing, because he knew that, being by his mother
a member of the great mathematical family of Gregories, he was expected
to come out first. The wretched day came to an end at last, and the boy
went home in the evening literally shedding tears of vexation.
Immediately he was freed from the anxiety of the lecture-room, he solved
the problems rapidly and clearly, in a way that annoyed and pleased him
almost equally. The professor, it seems, when he read the papers, could
not give the first prize to Alison on the strength of his answers. He
therefore decided that the work of that day should not hold, and
appointed a second date for the trial. The next time the result was all
that he and Archibald Alison could have desired! This little episode
entertained Sir Archibald immensely, and is a curious indication of the
lengths to which their friends were prepared to go for them, but while
in many families, influence, however acceptable it may be to themselves,
is anything but a good to the community, the influence exerted for the
Gregories was always rewarded by the sensible, thorough, and often
brilliant way in which they carried on their work.

The members of the family, who took up the study of medicine were great
healers, but how large was their idea of what that word meant! To cure
the body or to fail in curing it was one thing, but to get at the
reasons of illness in the circumstances and troubles of the patient, to
take away the effect through taking away the cause, was ever the
Gregories’ way. They understood many an unspoken heart history, and from
their own strong natures gave both strength and comfort to the sick. It
is no wonder then to see Burns clinging to the friendship of his great
physician for support and for love, knowing it was to be found in ‘that
man of iron justice, who was made without compassion for a poor poetic
sinner.’ Nor it must in truth be added, was Dr Gregory any less severe
with unpoetic sinners. For there is a case recorded when a great
aldermanic magnate came to consult him from the west country, expecting
his case to be considered as one of grave importance and significance.
What was then his surprise, when he was shortly but critically surveyed
by the doctor, and shown out of the consulting room with directions
equivalent to this: ‘Have nothing richer than roast mutton and rice
pudding for dinner for the next three months, and then if you care to
let me have the pleasure of seeing you again, you will be a different
man’—a transformation which the doctor evidently thought very desirable!

One can see that life could never be smooth to such a man. But at least
the Gregories in all the struggles of life, in the riots of tongues,
were ever sure of love and quiet by their own fireside. That came to
them because they were such great lovers, just as the difficulties
outside came from the same strong natures seeking their own way too
much. It has to be remembered in connection with this that they were
usually right, but that does not make the contest any less bitter. If
one could only think of them as having had peaceful lives, as Thomas
Reid at least had, but it was always a struggle, if not a battle with
them till the pale conqueror came to still the hubbub for ever.

They were great men, no mere dreamers. They were workers with busy
minds, to whom life was ever too short for the fulfilment of their
plans, but death never came to them before they had earned their rest.

All the great universities of this country who received the teaching of
the Gregories, have felt themselves honoured by their service, and have
adorned their annals with their name.

                                THE END.


 ABERDEEN, University of, 52, 92.

 ABERDEEN, Grammar School of, 27, 52, 92, 100, 125.

 ALISON, Sir Archibald, 155, 156.

 ALISON, William Pulteney, 122, 124, 143, 155.

 ANDERSON, David, of Finzeach, 10.

 ANDERSON, Janet, 10, 26.

 ARBUTHNOT, Dr, 68, 72, 73, 74.

 BEATTIE, 109, 119–21.

 BURNET, Bishop, 27, 65.

 BURNET, Helen, of Elrick, 99.

 BURNET, Mary, 32.

 BURNS, 129, 133, 134, 135, 157.

 CANAAN LODGE, 136, 150.


 CANT, Andrew, 12, 13, 153.

 CARLYLE, Alexander, 103, 104, 116.

 CHALMERS, Principal, 98, 100.

 CHARLETT, Dr, 64, 65, 71.

 CRICHTONS, The, 13–18.

 CHRISTCHURCH, 78, 82, 83, 126.

 CHRISTISON, Sir Robert, 128, 130.

 CLERK of Penicuik, quoted, 71.

 COCKBURN, Lord, 128, 132.

 COLLEGE, Royal, of Physicians, 137.

 COLLINS, John, 28, 29, 31.

 CULLEN, 101, 111, 113, 114, 115, 122, 126, 127, 130.

 DRUMOAK, 10, 11, 14.


 EDINBURGH, University of, 49–53, 55–58, 84, 85, 86, 92, 100, 113, 114,
    115, 126, 127, 128, 130, 139, 145, 147, 149.

 FLAMSTEED, 59, 68, 69.


 FORBES, Catherine of Monymusk, 98.

 FORBES, Hon. Elizabeth, 107, 111, 117.

 FRENDRAUGHT, Viscount, 15, 16, 18.

 GALILEO, 29, 30.

 GALTON, 10.

 GEORGE, Prince, of Denmark, 68, 69.

 GORDON, Isabel, 23, 25.

 GREGORIE, Alexander, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20.

 GREGORIE, Charles, 89.

 GREGORIE, David, of Kinairdy, 19–25, 153.

 GREGORIE, David, 89–91.

 GREGORY, David, Sav. Prof., 52–76, 77, 154.

 GREGORY, Dean, 77–83, 154.

 GREGORY, Dorothea, 115, 122, 123, 124.

 GREGORY, Duncan Farquharson, 147–151, 155.

 GREGORIE, Prof. James, I., 27–51, 53, 153.

 GREGORIE, Prof. James, II., 84–87.

 GREGORIE, Prof. James, III., 93–99, 154.

 GREGORIE, Prof. James, IV., 98, 99.

 GREGORY, Prof. James, V., 82, 122, 125–140, 155.

 GREGORIE, John, Rev., 11–14, 153.

 GREGORY, Prof. John, 100–124, 125, 154.

 GREGORY, Philip Spencer, 22, 124, 127.

 GREGORY, Prof. William, 141–147, 155.

 GREY, Lady Mary, 81.

 HALLEY, 60, 64, 65.

 HAMILTON, Professor, 136, 137.

 HEARNE, quoted, 63, 65.

 HOLLAND, 19, 24.

 HUDSON, 64, 65.

 HUME, David, 109, 116, 119, 120.

 HUYGENS, 29, 34, 35, 50.

 INFIRMARY, Royal, of Edinburgh, 136, 137.

 INNES, Prof., 23.

 JAMESON, George, 33.

 JOHNSON, Samuel, 69, 108.

 KEILL, 62.

 KELVIN, Lord, quoted, 151.

 KINAIRDY, 13, 14, 20, 21, 22, 24, 84.

 KING’S COLLEGE, Aberdeen, 20, 24, 96, 97, 98, 100, 105, 108, 109, 112,
    126, 142, 143.

 LEYDEN, 102, 103, 104, 127.

 LIEBIG, 142, 146.

 LYTTELTON, George, 107.

 LYTTELTON, Lord, 112.

 MACGREGORS, The, 9, 152.

 MACGREGOR of Roro, 9, 89.

 MACKENZIE, George, 18.

 MACLAURIN, Colin, 76, 86.

 M’LEOD, Isabella, of Geanies, 132.

 MALLET, David, 87, 89.

 MARISCHAL COLLEGE, Aberdeen, 27, 86.

 MONBODDO, 112, 135.

 MONRO, Professor, Primus, 100, 101.

 MONRO, Principal, 58.

 MONTAGUE, Mrs, 107, 108, 115, 116, 123.

 NEWTON, Sir Isaac, 23, 29, 34, 50, 54, 59, 60, 64, 68, 70, 86.

 OLIPHANTS of Langton, 61, 87.

 OXFORD, University of, 58, 61, 63–67, 78, 79, 80.

 PADUA, 30, 32.

 PENNANT, quoted, 152.

 PEPYS, Samuel, 65, 66, 67.

 PITCAIRNE, Dr Archibald, 53, 58, 70, 84.

 REGENTS, 105, 106.

 REID, Prof. Thomas, 23, 25, 90, 91, 106, 109, 119, 130, 131, 132.

 RHEIMS, 93.

 ROBERTSON, Principal, 102, 116, 132.

 ROB ROY, 94, 95.

 ROYAL SOCIETY, 31, 32, 60, 61, 68, 107.

 RUTHERFORD, Professor, 101, 111, 112, 113.

 SCOTT, Sir Walter, quoted, 95, 100, 139.

 SHELBURNE, Earl of, quoted, 79, 83.


 SINCLAIR, Prof. George, 35, 36, 42.

 SKENE, Alexander, 47.

 SKENE, David, 108, 109.

 SKENE, Robert, 52.

 SMALRIDGE, Dr, 64, 75, 76.

 SOCIETY, Royal Medical, 101.

 SPALDING, quoted, 12.

 ST ANDREWS UNIVERSITY, 33, 44–49, 84, 85, 89.

 STEWART, Dugald, 130, 132.

 TELESCOPE, Achromatic, 62.

 TELESCOPE, Reflecting, 28, 29, 31.

 TRINITY COLLEGE, Cambridge, 148.


 WALKER, Jean, of Orchiston, 19, 23, 52.

 WALLIS, Dr, 31, 64, 67.


 WHISTON, quoted, 54, 60.

 WILKES, 103.


 WISE CLUB, 109, 110.



                          FAMOUS SCOTS SERIES







          RICHARD CAMERON. By Professor HERKLESS.








          SIR WALTER SCOTT. By Professor SAINTSBURY.





          DAVID HUME. By Professor CALDERWOOD.


          SIR WILLIAM WALLACE. By Professor MURISON.


          THOMAS REID. By Professor CAMPBELL FRASER.
















                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

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