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The Scottish Nation

NICHOL, JOHN PRINGLE, LL.D., an eminent astronomer, the eldest son of a merchant in Brechin, Forfarshire, was born in that town, January 13, 1804. He was educated at Brechin academy, and showed so much talent and energy that his friends were persuaded to send him to college to fit him for the church. He, accordingly studied at King’s College, Old Aberdeen, where he gained the highest honours. He was scarcely seventeen years of age when he was appointed schoolmaster of the parish of Dun, in the neighbourhood of his native town. He was afterwards parish schoolmaster at Hawick, and thereafter at Cupar-Fife. Subsequently he became rector of the academy at Montrose, in which capacity he frequently delivered lectures upon chemistry, geology, electricity, and astronomy, elucidated with such apt experiments and illustrations, as made them extremely popular.

Meanwhile, he had, at intervals, attended the divinity class at college, where he studied for the Established Church of Scotland, and in due time was licensed to preach the gospel. His tastes, however, led him to the pursuits of science, and having been in early life a keen mathematician, he soon abandoned the pulpit, and devoted himself to the more congenial study of astronomy. Without having, in his early years, special advantage of encouragement, he was indebted for the position which he attained in the world of science solely to his own merit and perseverance. While teaching others, he continued an ardent student himself. By his writings and by his lectures, which latter were, in a high degree, popular, fascinating, and instructive, he soon became generally known, and in 1836, when the professorship of practical astronomy in the university of Glasgow became vacant, Lord Melbourne, then prime minister, at once appointed Mr. Nichol to the chair.

From that period he resided in Glasgow, and it was owing mainly to his exertions that the magnificent Observatory in its immediate vicinity was erected. He expended upon it a large amount of his own private means, and there, by the aid of some of the finest instruments in Great Britain, he pursued his favourite studies, and, from time to time, gave to the world the results of his observations in solar regions. He was the first to make the public familiar with that which is called the “Nebular Hypothesis.” He delivered frequent courses of lectures on his favourite science to crowded audiences in the City Hall of Glasgow, and also in many of the larger and smaller towns throughout the kingdom; and appeared to take as much delight in explaining the laws that regulate the heavenly bodies to the unpretending mechanic as to the carefully educated student. He died at Rothesay, September 19, 1859. He was twice married, and left a son and a daughter. His works are:

View of the Architecture of the Heavens. In a series of Letters to a Lady. Edinb. 1837, 8vo.
The Solar System. Edinburgh, 1842, 8vo.
The Planet Neptune. Edinb. 1848, 8vo.
The Stellar Universe. Edinb. 1848, 16mo.
Thoughts on some Important Points relating to the System of the World. 1848, 8vo.
The Planetary System. Edinburgh, 1851.
The Cyclopaedia of the Physical Sciences. Edinburgh, 1857, 8vo.

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