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Gregory


GREGORY, a surname, originally a baptismal name, not confined to Scotland, as it was that of several popes and illustrious men on the continent, but remarkable as the surname of a family, by descent MacGregors, distinguished for literary and scientific talent, of the different members of which memoirs are here given. In 1624 about three hundred of the clan Gregor were transported to the north by the earl of Moray, from his estates in Monteith, to oppose the Macintoshes, most of whom settled in Aberdeenshire. In 1715, when Rob Roy was sent by the earl of Mar to that county to raise a part of their descendants, who were of his own family (the race of the Ciar Mohr), he became acquainted with a relation of his own, Dr. James Gregory, professor of medicine in King’s college, Aberdeen, in return for whose kindness and hospitality he offered to take with him to the hills, and “make a man of him,” his son Dr. James Gregory, then a boy, but afterwards, like his father, professor of medicine in King’s college – a request which, of course, was delicately declined. (See Introduction to Sir Walter Scott’s Novel of Rob Roy.)

GREGORY, DAVID, of Kinnairdie, an elder brother of the inventor of the reflecting telescope, and who himself possessed a remarkable turn for mathematical and mechanical knowledge, was born in 1627 or 1628. He was the son of the Rev. John Gregory, minister of Drumoak, in Aberdeenshire, by his wife, the daughter of Mr. David Anderson of Finshaugh, commonly called, at Aberdeen, “Davie Do a’ Thing,” from his multifarious attainments, whose brother, Alexander Anderson, was, abut the beginning of the seventeenth century, professor of mathematics in the university of Paris. He was educated by his father for trade, and served an apprenticeship to a mercantile house in Holland. In 1655, having relinquished all commercial pursuits, he returned to Scotland, and succeeded, on the death of an elder brother, to the estate of Kinnairdie, situated about forty miles north of Aberdeen, where he lived many years, and where thirty-two children were born to him by two wives. Three of his sons were professors of mathematics at the same time in three of the British universities, namely, David at Oxford, James at Edinburgh, and Charles at St. Andrews; and one of his daughters was mother of the celebrated Dr. Thomas Reid of Glasgow. Devoting himself, in his retirement, to the cultivation of science and the study of medicine, which he practised gratuitously among his neighbours, and being, moreover, the only one in that part of the country who possessed a barometer, by which he obtained a knowledge of the weather, he incurred the suspicion of the ignorant and superstitious as a dealer in the ‘black art,’ and narrowly escaped being formally tried by the presbytery of the bounds for witchcraft or conjuration. A deputation of that reverend body waited upon him to inquire into the ground of certain reports that were in circulation concerning him; but he was able to give them the most ample and satisfactory explanation, whereby a prosecution was averted.

      About the beginning of the eighteenth century he removed to Aberdeen with his family, and having invented an engine to make the shot of great guns more destructive to the enemy, he sent a model of it to his son, the Savilian professor at Oxford, that he might obtain his and Sir Isaac Newton’s opinion of it. The latter at once condemned this improvement in artillery as calculated to increase the horrors of war, and recommended that it should be destroyed. As the machine was never afterwards found, it is supposed that the professor followed Newton’s advice. On the breaking out of the rebellion in 1715, Mr. Gregory went a second time to Holland, but returned when it was over to Aberdeen, where he died about 1720, aged ninety-three. He left behind him a history of his own time and country, which was never published.

GREGORY, DAVID, son of the preceding, and nephew of the celebrated inventor of the reflecting telescope, and himself an eminent mathematician, was born at Aberdeen, June 24, 1661. He received the rudiments of his education at his native place, but afterwards removed to the university of Edinburgh, where he took the degree of M.A. Having early devoted himself to the study of mathematics, he was in 1684 elected to the mathematical chair at Edinburgh. On the publication of Sir Isaac Newton’s ‘Principia’ in 1687, Mr. Gregory adopted the Newtonian philosophy, and was the first in any of the universities to introduce it into his lectures.

      In 1691, being informed of Dr. Edmond Bernard’s intention to resign the Savilian professorship at Oxford, Mr. Gregory left Edinburgh, and, repairing to London, was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society, to whose Transactions he afterwards contributed some valuable papers, the first, and one of the best, of which was his solution of the famous Florentine problem, sent as a challenge to the British mathematicians. He next proceeded to Oxford, where, February 8, 1692, he was incorporated M.A. of Baliol college, and on the 18th of the same month he received the degree of M.D. He was elected professor of astronomy there n the room of Dr. Bernard, having been preferred to the celebrated Dr. Halley, wh soon after became his colleague, in the Savilian chair of geometry.

      In 1695 he published at Oxford a valuable treatise on Optics, chiefly as regards the construction of telescopes. In 1697 his demonstration of the properties of the Catenarian Curve appeared in the Philosophical Transactions; and in 1702 was published his most celebrated work, ‘Astronomiae Physicae et Geometricae Elementa,’ folio, which was afterwards translated into English, with additions. In 1703, in pursuance of a design projected by Sir Henry Savile, namely, to print a uniform series of the ancient mathematicians, he published an edition of the books of Euclid, in Greek and Latin, folio; and afterwards, in conjunction with Dr. Halley, he commenced the Conics of Appollonius, but was prevented from completing the work by an illness, which terminated in his death, October 10, 1710. He had married, in 1695, Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. Oliphant of Langtown, by whom he had four sons.

      His works are:

      Exercitatio Geometrica de dimensione figurarum sive specimen methodi generalis demetiendi quasvis figuras. Edin. 1684, 4to.

      De Curva Catenaria, Demonstrationes Geometricae. Oxf. 1697, fol.

      Astronomiae Geometricae et Physicae Elementa. Oxf. 1702, fol. Translated into English; with additions. To which is added, Halley’s Synopsis of the Astronomy of Comets, revised and corrected by Edmund Stone. Lond. 1713, 1726, 2 vols. 8vo.

      Euclidis Opera Omnia, Greek et Latin. Oxf. 1703, fol.

      Catoptricae et Dioptricae Sphericae Elementa. Oxf. 1695, 8vo. In English. Lond. 1705, 1715, 8vo. By Sir W. Brown, M.D. 3d edit. Lond. 1735, 8vo, by Dr. Desaguliers; to which he added, The History f the two Reflecting Telescopes, with their several improvements at that time; with original papers between Sir Isaac Newton and Dr. James Gregory relating thereunto.

      Treatise of Practical Geometry, in 3 parts. Translated from the Latin. Edin. 1745, 8vo. 2d edition. Edin. 1751.

      Solution of the Florentine Problem, concerning the Testudo Veliformis Quadrabilis. Phil. Trans. 1695. Abr. iii.

      The Properties of the Catenaria, or Curve Line, formed by a heavy and flexible chain hanging freely from two points of suspension. Ib. 1697, Abr. iv. P. 184.

      On the Eclipse of the Sun, Sep. 13, 1699. Ib. 1699. 426

      Concerning the Catenary. Ib 456.

      Of Cassini’s Orbit of the Planets. 1704. Abr. v. p. 152.

GREGORY, JAMES, a distinguished mathematician, and, excepting Newton, the greatest philosopher of his age, was born at Drumoak, in Aberdeenshire, in 1638. He was a younger brother of Mr. David Gregory of Kinnairdie (see above). He was educated in Marischal college, Aberdeen, where he became well versed in classical learning. The works of Galileo, Des Cartes, and Kepler, were, however, his principal study, and he began early to make improvements on their discoveries in optics, the most important of which was his invention of the reflecting telescope, which still bears his name. In 1663 he published at London a description of this instrument, in a quarto work, entitled ‘Optica promota, seu abdita radiorum reflexorum ex refractorum mysteria Geometricae enucleata.’ In 1664 he visited London for the purpose of perfecting the mechanical construction of the instrument, but not being able to obtain a speculum ground and polished, of a proper figure, he abandoned the design for a time, and set out on a tour for Italy. He staid some time at Padua, the university of which was at that time famed for mathematical science; and while there he published, in 1667, a treatise on the Quadrature of the Circle and Hyperbola, which was reprinted at Venice in 1668, with an appendix on the transmutation of curves.

      On his return to England, Mr. Gregory was elected a member of the Royal Society, whose Transactions he enriched with some valuable papers. His treatise on the Quadrature of the Circle involved him in a discussion with Mr. Huygens, who attacked his method in a scientific journal of that period, and Gregory replied in the Philosophical Transactions. Both controversialists, but particularly Gregory, conducted the dispute with much unnecessary warmth and asperity. In 1668 he was elected professor of mathematics in the university of St. Andrews; and in 1669 he married Mary, the daughter of George Jamesone, the celebrated painter, styled by Walpole the Scottish Vandyke. By this lady he had a son and two daughters.

      In 1672 Mr. Gregory published a small satirical tract, under an assumed name, the object of which was to expose the ignorance displayed in his hydrostatical writings by Mr. George Sinclair, formerly professor of natural philosophy in Glasgow. Some objections made by Sir Isaac Newton to the construction of the telescope invented by Gregory, gave rise, in 1672, to a controversy between these two illustrious men, which was conducted for two years with praiseworthy courtesy and good faith on both sides. In 1674 Mr. Gregory was invited to fill the mathematical chair at Edinburgh, and accordingly removed thither with his family. In October 1675, after being engaged one evening in pointing out to some of his pupils the satellites of Jupiter, he was suddenly struck with total blindness, and died three days thereafter, in the 37th year of his age.

      His works are:

      Optica promota seu abdita radiorum reflexorum ex refractorum mysteria Geometricae enucleata, cum Appendice subtillissimorum Astronomiae problematum resolutionem exhibente. Lond. 1663, 4to.

      Vera Circuli et Hyperbolae Quadratura. Patav. 1667, 4to. Et cui accedit Geometria pars universalis, inserviens quantitatum curvarum transmutationi et mensurae. Patav. 1668

      Exercitationes Geometricae. Lond. 1668, 1678, 4to.

      The great and new art of weighing Vanity; or a Discovery of the Ignorance and Arrogance of the great and new Artist, in his pseudo-Philosophical writings. By M. Patrick Mathers, Arch-bedel to the University of St. Andrew’s. To which are annexed, Tentamina quaedam Geometrica de motu penduli, projectorum, &c. Glas. 1672, 8vo.

      Astronomiae Physicae et Geometriae Elementa. Oxon. 1702, fol.

      Answer to the Animadversions of Mr. Huygens upon his Book, De Vera Circuli, &c.; as they were published in the Journal des Scavans of July 2, 1668. Phil. Trans. 1668. Abr. i. P. 268.

      Extract of a Letter of Mr. James Gregory to the Publisher; containing some Observations on M. Huygens’ Letter, printed in vindication of his Examen of the Book entit. Vera Circuli et Hyperbolae Quadratura. Ib. 1669, Abr. i. P. 319.

GREGORY, JOHN, M.D., an eminent medical and moral writer, and one of the most distinguished members of his illustrious family, which has furnished such a number of gifted professors to the British universities, was born at Aberdeen, June 3, 1724. He was the youngest of three children of James Gregory, professor of medicine in King’s college, Old Aberdeen, and the grandson of the celebrated inventor of the reflecting telescope. He received his academical education at King’s college, and in 1742 he removed with his mother to Edinburgh, where he studied medicine for three years under Professors Monro, Sinclair, and Rutherford. In 1745 he went to the university of Leyden, and during his residence there he received from King’s college, Old Aberdeen, the degree of M.D. In 1747 he returned home, and was elected professor of philosophy in that university, where he lectured on mathematics, and moral and natural philosophy; and in 1749 resigned his chair from a desire to devote himself to the practice of medicine. In 1752 he married the daughter of Lord Forbes. In 1754 he repaired to London to practise, where he became acquainted with Lord Lyttleton, Lady Mary Wortley Montague, and other eminent persons, and was chosen a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1755, on the death of his brother, Dr. James Gregory, he was elected his successor in the chair of medicine at Old Aberdeen, when he returned to his native city, and entered on the duties of his professorship in 1756. His first publication, entitled ‘A Comparative View of the State and Faculties of Man with those of the Animal World,’ appeared in 1764, under the patronage of his friend, Lord Lyttleton. This work he had at first composed as essays for ‘The Wise Club,’ a society projected by Drs. Reid and Gregory, and consisting of the professors of both Marischal and King’s college, and other literary and scientific gentlemen of Aberdeen, who met weekly in a tavern in that city, for the purpose of hearing essays on literary and philosophical subjects read by its members.


[portrait of Dr. John Gregory]

      About the beginning of 1765 Dr. Gregory removed to Edinburgh, with a view to the increase of his practice; and two years afterwards he was appointed professor of the practice of physic in the university there, in the room of Dr. Rutherford, who resigned in his favour. In 1766, upon the death of Dr. Whytt, he was nominated first physician to his majesty for Scotland. In consequence of an arrangement with his colleague, Dr. Cullen, they lectured for many years alternately on the theory and practice of medicine, to the great benefit of the young men attending their classes. One of Dr. Gregory’s students having taken notes of his preliminary lectures on the practice of physic, an extended copy of which he offered to a bookseller for publication, he was induced to bring out a correct edition of these lectures himself, which he did in 1770, under the title of ‘Observations on the Duties and Office of a Physician, and on the Method of prosecuting Inquiries in Philosophy,’ the profits of which he generously gave to a poor and deserving student. The same year he published his ‘Elements of the Practice of Physic,’ intended as a syllabus to his lectures, but from want of leisure the work was never completed. Dr. Gregory, who had from the age of eighteen been subject to repeated attacks of hereditary gout, died suddenly n his bed on the night of February 9, 1773. He left in manuscript an invaluable little treatise, entitled ‘A Father’s Legacy t his Daughters,’ written after the death of his wife, who died in 1761, and designed for the private instruction of his own family. It was published soon after his death by his eldest son, James, the subject of the following notice, who succeeded Dr. Cullen as professor of the practice of physic in the university of Edinburgh. Besides Dr. James Gregory, he had another son and two daughters, namely, the Rev. William Gregory, rector of St. Mary’s, Bentham; Dorothea, the wife of the Rev. W. Allison of Baliol college, Oxford; and Margaret, wife of John Forbes, Esq. of Blackford, Aberdeenshire.

GREGORY, JAMES, M.D., an eminent physician and medical professor, eldest son of the preceding, by his wife, the Hon. Elizabeth Forbes, daughter of the thirteenth Lord Forbes, was born at Aberdeen in 1753. He received his education partly at the grammar school instituted by Dr. Patrick Dunn in his native city, and after his father’s removal to Edinburgh, at the university there. In 1774 he took his degree as M.D., his thesis being ‘De Morbis Caeli Mutatione Medendis.’ Repairing to Leyden, he attended the lectures of the celebrated Gobius, the favourite student and immediate successor of the great Boerhaave. In 1776, when only twenty-three years of age, he was appointed professor of the theory of physic in the university of Edinburgh, and as a text-book for his lectures, he published in 1780-2 his ‘Conspectus Medicinae Theoreticae,’ in 2 vols., which soon became a standard work. In 1790, on the death of Dr. Cullen, Dr. Gregory was appointed to the chair of the practice of physic in the same university; the duties f which he discharged for thirty-one years with a lustre equal, if not superior to that conferred on the university by his immediate predecessor. He was distinguished for his classical attainments, and early directed his attention to the study of metaphysics. In his ‘Philosophical and Literary Essays,’ published in 1792, in two volumes, 8vo, he opposed the doctrine of fatalism maintained in Dr. Priestley’s work entitled ‘Philosophical Necessity.’ It is said that previous to publication he forwarded the manuscripts of his Essays to Dr. Priestley for perusal, but that the latter declined to read them, on the ground that his mind was made up, and that he had ceased to think of the subject.

      In controversies of a professional and temporary nature Dr. Gregory had an active share. In 1793 an anonymous work, reflecting on some of the professors of the university, having appeared, under the title of ‘A Guide for Gentlemen studying Medicine at the University of Edinburgh,’ he issued a pamphlet, in which he endeavoured to prove, by internal evidence, that it was the production of Dr. Hamilton, professor of midwifery, and his son who was afterwards his assistant. A paper warfare was the consequence, Dr. Hamilton, junior, having replied in a well-written pamphlet, in which he showed the groundlessness of the charge, as well as the unprovoked asperity of his accuser. To discover the author of the ‘Guide,’ law proceedings were instituted against the publisher, while Dr. Hamilton, on his part, raised an action against Dr. Gregory, for traducing his character. In 1800 he published a ‘Memorial addressed to the Managers of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, complaining of the younger members of the College of Surgeons being allowed to perform operations there.’ this was replied to by Mr. John Bell, surgeon; and the question engrossed for some time the whole attention of the medical profession of Edinburgh, In 1806 he entered into a warm discussion with the college of Physicians, in consequence of some proceedings on the part of that body which he considered derogatory to the profession.

      As a physician Dr. Gregory enjoyed an extensive and lucrative practice. His great eminence, and his high literary and scientific reputation, caused him to be elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and a member of the French Institute. Whilst returning from visiting a patient, his carriage was accidentally overturned, his arm broken, and his constitution severely injured. After being repeatedly attacked with inflammation of the lungs, he died at Edinburgh April 2, 1821, in his 68th year. The following is his portrait, in the uniform of the Edinburgh volunteers, taken by Kay in 1795:


[portrait of Dr. James Gregory]

      Dr. Gregory was twice married, and by his second wife, a daughter of Donald Macleod, Esq. of Geanies, he had a large family. His eldest son, John, having been educated for the bar, was admitted a member of the faculty of advocates in 1820. Another son, Dr. William Gregory, was elected in 1839, professor of medicine and chemistry in King’s college, Old Aberdeen, where he remained till 1844, when he was appointed by the town council of Edinburgh to the chair of chemistry and chemical pharmacy in the university of that city. A younger son, Donald Gregory, was for several years joint secretary to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He was also secretary to the Iona Club, founded in 1833, the objects of which were to investigate and illustrate the history, antiquities, and early literature of the Highlands of Scotland; honorary member of the Ossianic Society of Glasgow, and of the Society of Antiquaries, Newcastle on Tyne, and member of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of the North at Copenhagen. In 1836 he published a valuable work in one volume, entitled ‘History of the Western Highlands and Isles of Scotland from 1493 to 1625; with a brief Introductory Sketch from 80 to 1493;’ dedicated to Lord Macdonald of the Isles. This work is important as forming one of the first attempts to investigate the history of the West Highlands and Isles, by the most careful examination of original documents, and the various public records, and it must prove essentially useful to every future writer on the history of the Highlands. He intended to have followed it up with another volume relating to the Central Highlands; he had also collected materials for a dissertation ‘On the Manners, Customs, and Laws of the Highlanders,’ but his death the same year put a stop to his designs. Mr. Gregory died in October 1836, in the prime of life. His valuable and extensive collection of documents came into the possession of the Iona Club, and several valuable communications by him were inserted n the ‘Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis,’ edited by that Club, and issued to the members in 1839.

      Dr. George Gregory, a nephew of the celebrated Dr. James Gregory, died at London in January 1853. He had been a distinguished member of the medical profession for upwards of forty years, and as long as thirty-five years physician to the Small-pox and Vaccination Hospital in London. He was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1839. He was also a physician to the Adult Orphan Asylum. He was the author of several valuable medical treatises on small-pox and vaccination, lectures on eruptive fevers, and the elements of medicine, &c.

      Dr. James Gregory’s works are:

      Dissertatio Medica de Morbis Coeli Mutatione Medendis. Edin. 1774, 8vo. 1776, 12mo.

      Conspectus Mecidinae Theoreticae in usum Academicum. Edin. 1780-2, 2 vols, 8vo. 3d edit. Enlarged and improved. Edin. 1788-90, 2 vols, 8vo. 4th ed. 1812, 8vo. 6th ed. 1818.

      Philosophical and Literary Essays. Edin. 1792, 2 vols. 8vo.

      Select parts of the Introduction to Dr Gregory’s Philosophical and Literary Essays; methodically arranged, and illustrated with Remarks by an Annotator. Lond. 1793, 8vo.

      Memorial to the Managers of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Edin. 1800, 4to.

      Cullen’s first Lines of the Practice of Physic; with Notes. 7th edit. 2 vols. 8vo.

      The Theory of the Moods of Verbs. Trans. Soc. Edin. 1790. Vol. Ii. 193.


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