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Significant Scots
David Fordyce


FORDYCE, DAVID, professor of philosophy in the Marischal college, Aberdeen, and author of several esteemed works, was one of the twenty one children of provost Fordyce of that city, and whose wife was a sister of Alexander and Thomas Blackwell, whose lives have appeared previously in this work. The father of the Blackwells was professor of divinity, Dr Thomas Blackwell became professor of Greek, and his widow founded a chemical chair, in Marischal college, which has thus become identified with the history of both the Fordyces and the Blackwells. David Fordyce was born in 1711, and was the second son of his parents. To quote the only accessible authority respecting him [An unpublished article of the Biographia Britannica, quoted in Chalmers’ General Biographical Dictionary.] – After being educated at the grammar-school of his native city, he was entered of Marischal college in 1724, where he went through a course of philosophy under professor Daniel Jarden, and of mathematics under Mr John Stewart. He took his degree of A.M. in 1728, when he was but little more than seventeen years old. Being intended for the church, his next application was to the study of divinity, under the professor of that branch, Mr James Chalmers, a man of great learning and piety, and ancestor of the individuals who have so long carried on the Aberdeen Journal newspaper. Mr Fordyce studied divinity with great ardour, and in time obtained a license as a preacher of the gospel, though he was not so fortunate as to procure a living. In 1742, he was appointed professor of moral philosophy in Marischal college, a chair which then demanded a greater range of accomplishments than now. It was the duty of Mr Fordyce, not only to deliver the usual philosophic lectures, but to give instructions in a similar manner on natural history, chronology, Greek and Roman antiquities, mechanics, optics, and astronomy; and it is acknowledged that he acquitted himself in this laborious task in a very respectable manner. The connexion of some of his colleagues with the literary system of the metropolis appears to have introduced Mr Fordyce to the celebrated Dodsley, by whom he was employed to write the article "Moral Philosophy" for the Modern Preceptor; a task which he performed in so creditable a manner, that it was afterwards found necessary to publish his work in an independent form, under the title of "The Elements of Moral Philosophy." It appeared in 1754, and was undoubtedly the most elegant and useful compendium of moral science which had then been given to the public. Previously to this, Mr Fordyce had attracted some notice as an author, though without his name in "Dialogues concerning Education," the first volume of which was published in 1745, and the second in 1748. It is a work of very considerable merit, but somewhat tinged by the fopperies of the school of Shaftesbury, although entirely free from its more injurious notions. He was engaged in other literary designs, and afforded the promise of rising to great eminence in the world, when he was cut off by a premature death. In 1750, he made a tour through France, Italy, and other countries, with a particular view to visit Rome, and was returning home in 1751, when he unhappily lost his life, in the forty-first year of his age, by a storm on the coast of Holland. [The posthumous works of this ingenious person were, "Theodorus, a Dialogue concerning the Art of Preaching," 12 mo, which is a work of considerable utility to young divines, and has been repeatedly printed, along with his brother, Dr James Fordyce’s sermon on "The Eloquence of the Pulpit," and "The Temple of Virtue, a Dream," which was given to the world in 1757, with some additions by the same distinguished relative.] His death is pathetically noticed by his brother, Dr James Fordyce in his "Addresses to the Deity," and an epitaph from the same pen, conceived in a somewhat bombastical style, will be found in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1796.

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