Education - Schools and University Chapter XX - Third
Period (1696 - 1858). Marischal College
WE have seen in our second
period that Marischal College, in its internal economy as a teaching
institution, was not seriously affected by either the Restoration or the
In 1690 parliament no doubt
passed a measure making subscription to the Confession of Faith for the
satisfaction of the Church, and the Oath of Allegiance for the satisfaction
of the Crown, imperative on all holding office in the universities, but the
effect of this was practically unfelt. To the subscription Episcopalians had
little if any objection, and Presbyterians had none. The rebellion of 1715
was not yet upon them, and therefore the Oath of Allegiance was no
stumbling-block. As a matter of fact there seem to have been no dismissals
from the staff of Marischal College. But in another important respect a
great and permanent change was effected. Hitherto the Church - whether
Catholic or Protestant - had been the predominant partner in the
universities. Henceforth the universities became institutions of the state.
The way was now open for
carrying out the three reforms suggested by the Commissioners, which have
been already referred to (p. 136), viz. the election of Professors and
Regents by examination [They "put in ane hatt ten little peices of paper,
upon every one of which was writtine a distinct subject or head of
philosophie, one of which the competitors was appoynted to draw, each of
them one, and to have a discourse and sustain theses thereupon."], a cursus
philosophicus for all universities, and the abolition of ` regenting.'
Further reference to them here is unnecessary.
In another direction there
was a call for vigorous action by the authorities. Near the end of the 17th
century the buildings were much in want of repairs. Though part had been
rebuilt by local subscription, the Senatus felt that more was needed, and an
appeal to the Scots Parliament was answered by a gift of the vacant stipends
of certain churches whose patronage belonged to Earl Marischal. In 1698 help
was asked from the Convention of Royal Burghs, and the Commissioners gave
1200 pounds Scots (one hundred pounds sterling). In return for this they
gave the Commissioners what would now be called a "cake and wine banquet [In
the college accounts the materials are thus recorded: "2 pounds of cours
biscat, 6 ounce of fyne biscat, 5 of rough almonds, 5 pounds of raisans, 3
pints of claret, and ane choppin of ail, a pint of Canary, 7 pints of ail,
whit loafs, pips, tobacco, and candle."]."
A Chair of Medicine was
founded by Earl Marischal in 1720, and in 1712 part of Queen Anne's grant of
£210 already referred to (p. 238) was assigned to it. The rebellion of 1715
wrought great changes in the college. Through the Earl's espousing the cause
of the Stuarts he forfeited his title, and the headship of the college
passed from his family. In 1717 almost all the authorities were removed, and
for two sessions the college was closed. When it was re-opened, the
Government claimed the patronage of the chairs which had belonged to Earl
Marischal. In the same year the founding of a Greek Chair, which had been
unsuccessfully attempted more than half a century before, was realised, and
Colin Maclaurin was appointed Professor of Mathematics. In this, and indeed
generally, Marischal College was progressive, and led the way in
popularising the work of the university, and adapting it to meet the wants
of other than the wealthy and professional class.
The demands made on the
Principal were far from light. In the early part of the century he was
expected "to be wellinformed in the holy Scriptures in order to qualify him
for explaining the mysteries of religion ; to be well skilled in languages,
especially Hebrew and Syriac, which he was to teach once a week; to
illustrate, from Greek, Aristotle's Physiology; to explain the sacred
writings one hour every Monday; to give a short explication of Anatomy ; to
teach the principles of Geography, Chronology, and Astronomy, also the
Hebrew Grammar with practical application of the rules [Kennedy's Annals of
Aberdeen, II, 92-4.]." In 1726 a most praiseworthy attempt to establish a
class of experimental philosophy, covering Mechanics, Optics, Chemistry,
Hydrostatics, and Husbandry, failed from want of means. Its aim was
eminently practical. The class was to be conducted, "so that even those who
have not made progress in Mathematics may understand some of the most useful
and pleasant parts of natural philosophy, especially all sorts of machines
in husbandry and common life." Next year a Chair of Oriental Languages was
established. Between that date and 1741, additions were made to the
buildings in the face of great poverty. Most praiseworthy efforts were made
by the Senatus, who renounced part of their own interest in the college
funds for the purpose. The Town Council gave their aid, and subscriptions
came in from private persons in the town and country and from former
students. The additions cost £700.
In 1755 'regenting,' which
had been practised for more than a century, was abolished, and the following
curriculum was introduced.
First year. Greek.
Second year. Greek,
Latin, History Natural and Civil, along with the elements of Geography and
Chronology, on which Civil History depends, Elementary Mathematics.
Third year. Mechanics,
Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Optics, Astronomy, Magnetism, Electricity, and any
others which further discoveries may add; Criticism and Belles Lettres,
Pneumatology, or the Natural Philosophy of spirits, including the doctrine
of the nature, faculties, and states of the human mind; Natural Theology,
Moral Philosophy, containing Ethics, Jurisprudence, and Politics, the study
of these being accompanied by the perusal of some of the best of the ancient
moralists; Logic, Metaphysics.
In the new curriculum it is
to be noted that Logic and Philosophy are taken up in the last, and not in
the first year of academic study, as was the practice in the middle ages.
Sensible reasons for this and other changes in the plan were given.
Attempts at the union of the
two colleges were made but without success. In 1747 both unanimously agreed
to, and subscribed, articles of union. The number of professors in the
United College was to be that existing at King's, with the single addition
of a Professor of Mathematics. The disposal of the superfluous professors
was arranged for by the resignation of some, and the alternative discharge
of duty by others. The only unsettled point was the locality of the new
Institution. One party claimed New Aberdeen, the other Old Aberdeen as the
most suitable. Neither would give way, and the proposed union fell through.
Other schemes failed, and though in 1786 a fresh attempt, on what seemed a
feasible plan, was proposed, King's College rejected it [Old Statistical
Account of Scotland, Vol. xxi, 1799, pp. 113, 114.]. In 1755 residence in
the college was given up and `disputation' as an element in graduation was
discontinued after 1765. An observatory in connection with the college was
erected on the Castle Hill in 1781, the Town Council contributing twenty
guineas for the purchase of instruments. In 1795 it was transferred to the
The first forty years of the
19th century seem to have been a period of academic activity. Within that
period no fewer than five new lectureships were instituted-Anatomy,
Midwifery, Surgery, Materia Medica, and Scots Law. The joint medical school,
established between Marischal and King's College in 1818, had a Professor of
Medicine and four lectureships, and in 1839 when the joint medical school
was dissolved, Marischal College had teaching provided in Materia Medica,
Physiology, Medical Jurisprudence, Anatomy, Midwifery, and Botany. In 1825
the degree of M.D. which, as in Glasgow, had been very loosely conferred on
the recommendation of two or three medical practitioners, was obtainable
only after examination.
Similarly, with regard to
graduation in Arts, the authorities thought the time had come for a change.
Till now nothing more was required for graduation than attendance at the
classes. The defence of a thesis [See Appendix for graduation theses of
1730, and programme of lectures delivered by the Professor of Civil and
Natural History in 1810, p. 255.] had been gradually abandoned, and there
was substituted for it an examination which was the most unqualified sham.
The same questions in Logic and Rhetoric were used every year, the
candidates being supplied with copies of both questions and answers which
they committed to memory, and, a week later, repeated in presence of the
In these circumstances no
candidate for degree was rejected. It was even rumoured that degrees were
sometimes given to men who had neither attended university classes, nor
passed even a formal examination. Nothing seems to have been asked but the
name of the school, academy, or university the applicant had attended, and a
certificate of fitness from a moral and literary point of view. It was
certainly not too soon that the authorities decided that the time for a
change had come. A change accordingly was made as gradually as possible, the
questions set being so easy, that the candidate who failed to answer them
placed himself clearly below graduation mark. Of the thirty-three who came
forward as candidates, five "could not answer the simplest question," and
were not allowed to graduate. Feeling aggrieved at this, and having besides
some faults to find with the Senatus, they appealed to Joseph Hume, the
financial reformer, recently elected Rector, who thought it necessary to
hold a Rectorial Court, the first for nearly a century, to consider the
complaint. He seems to have thought the students had been rather hardly
treated, and recommended the Senatus to deal leniently with them.
The parliamentary commission
appointed in 1826 recommended, among other suggestions, a union of the two
universities, and a change in the method of teaching Latin, which had
latterly been taught by a Regent as part of the History course. The report
of this commission was not incorporated in an Act of Parliament, the
political excitement aroused by the approach of the Reform Bill of 1832
throwing university matters into the shade. The evidence given before the
commission of 1837 showed that the suggestions of the former commission had
received little attention but one of its recommendations, a Chair of Church
History, was furnished in 1833 by William IV. Latin was now introduced into
the first year of the curriculum, and candidates for degree were examined in
Latin, Greek, Civil and Natural History, Natural Philosophy, Moral
Philosophy and Logic, and Mathematics. This curriculum remained unchanged
till the Act of 1858 was passed.
Marischal College was
completely rebuilt between 1836 and 1845 at a cost of £30,000, Government,
the city of Aberdeen, private individuals, the Chancellor, Rector and almost
every member of the college down to the sacrist being contributors. A Chair
of Humanity and Chairs of Anatomy and Surgery were founded by Queen Victoria
in 1839. Medical and other Chairs were instituted. Mathematical bursaries,
travelling scholarships, and gold medals were furnished by benefactors for
the promotion of scholarship and research.
Between 1826 and 1860, no
fewer than eight attempts were made by means of Bills or Commissions to
unite the two colleges, but mutual jealousy barred the way. The conservatism
of King's, and the progressive instinct of Marischal, forbade a coalition
that would have prevented the scandalous waste of energy involved in two
sets of professors lecturing on the same subject, each to a mere handful of
students. To give details of the various schemes proposed would be tedious.
Slight concessions on both sides would have resulted in a workable system.
Union was at last effected in 1860, during the Rectorship and by the skill
of Inglis, afterwards Lord President of the Court of Session, and Marischal
College ceased to exist as a separate university. The difficulty connected
with the existence and disposal of what was to a large extent a double set
of professors was skilfully overcome. The bitterness which was felt for a
considerable time has long since disappeared, under the mellowing influence
of a common interest.
The earliest extant printed
Thesis, the maintenance of which by the candidate was a condition of
graduation, is dated 1616. It is probable that, during the intervening
century, similar Theses were printed every year for both Marischal and
King's Colleges. Few have survived, and soon after 1730 they ceased to be
printed. The subjoined has been kindly supplied by Mr P. J. Anderson,
Librarian of Aberdeen University.
(a) GRADUATION THESES OF
MARISCHAL COLLEGE, 1730. DAVID VERNER: Praeses.
I. Omnis idea aut oritur a
sensibus aut a reflectione.
2. Nulla cadit in ideis
falsitas, proprie sic dicta.
3. Potentia DEI, secundum
nostrum concipiendi modum, est prima possibilitatis radix.
4. Mens humana est Spiritus
dependens, immaterialis, ac immortalis.
5. Mens humana semper cogitat.
6. Intellectus et Voluntas,
non inter se realiter distinguuntur.
7. Voluntas semper bonum
appetit, malum semper aversatur.
8. Bruta non sunt mera
9. Omnes et solae actiones
liberae, earumve omissiones, sunt legis directione obnoxiae.
10. Rerum Dominium, sola
occupatione corporea, animo sibi habendi, ab origine acquiri, absque
caeterorum hominum consensu, potuit.
11. Omnis materia sua natura
iners est, neque ullum corpus cogitationis capax est.
12. Datur vacuum.
13. Omnis motus est
proportionalis vi motrici impressae, et sit semper versus eandem plagam, qua
vis ista dirigitur.
14. Velocitates gravium, ex
eadem altitudine cadentium, quando ad eandem rectam Horizontalem pervenerunt,
15. Radii lucis sunt
materiales, varie refringibiles et reflexibiles.
(b) PROGRAMME OF
BY THE PROFESSOR OF CIVIL AND
NATURAL HISTORY IN 1810.
Introductory Lecture - Four
Lectures on Poetry and Ancient and Modern Versification. Ten Lectures on
Chronology and Geography and Progress of Discovery.
Introduction to General
History - On Government -The British Constitution, &c.
History of the more ancient
nations, Egypt, &c.
History of Ancient Greece.
Literature - Eloquence - Fine
Arts - Philosophy and Religion of the Greeks.
Rome from its origin to
Belisarius - Literature and Antiquities.
Lecture on Chemistry,
introductory to Mineralogy.
Mineralogy, Geology, and
Botany and Vegetable
Zoology - Anatomy - Animal
Physiology - History of Man and of the Animal Kingdom.
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