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Significant Scots
Gilbert Jack


JACK, or JACHAEUS, GILBERT, an eminent metaphysician and medical writer, and professor of philosophy at Leyden, was born at Aberdeen, as has been asserted, (although there seems but slight ground for fixing the date so precisely,) in the year 1578. Early in life, and apparently before he had commenced a regular series of literary study, he lost his father, and was committed by his mother to the private tuition of a person named Thomas Cargill. He afterwards studied under Robert Howie: and as that individual was made principal of Marischal college, on its erection into a university, in 1593, it is probably that Jack obtained a portion of his university education at Aberdeen, although he is mentioned by Freher as having studied philosophy at St Andrews where he was under the tuition of Robert Hay, an eminent theologist. By the advice of his tutor, who probably detected in his mind the dawnings of high talent, Jack continued his studies in the universities on the continent. He remained for some time at the colleges of Herborn and Helmstadt; when, incited by the high fame of the university of Leyden, he removed thither, and sought employment as a private teacher, in expectation of eventually obtaining a professorship. His ambition was at length gratified, by his appointment, in 1604, to what has been in general terms called the philosophical chair of that celebrated institution. Scotland, which seems to have acquired a permanent celebrity from the numerous persevering and ambitious men it has dispersed through the world, was at no time so fruitful in its supply of eminent men as during the life-time of the subject of our memoir. Adolphus Vorstius, a person known to fame chiefly from his tributes to the memory of some eminent friends, and colleague of Jack in the university of Leyden, in a funeral oration to his memory, from which the materials for a memoir of Jack are chiefly derived, mentions that at the period we allude to, there was scarcely a college in Europe of any celebrity, which did not number a Scotsman among its professors: and whether from the meagre tuition in our own universities, or other causes, most of the Scotsmen celebrated for learning at that period—and they were not a few--began their career of fame abroad. In the works, or correspondence of the continental scholars of the seventeenth century, we frequently meet with names of Scotsmen now forgotten in their native country, and that of Jack frequently occurs, accompanied with many indications of respect. He is said to have been the first who taught metaphysics at Leyden, a statement from which we may at least presume, that he opened new branches of inquiry, and was celebrated for the originality of the system he inculcated. During his professorship at Leyden he studied medicine, and took his degree in that science in 1611.

In 1612, appeared his first work, "Institutiones Physicae, Juventutis Lugdunensis Studiis potissimum dicatae," republished with notes in 1616. This treatise is dedicated to Matthew Overbeguius (Overbeke), and is in the usual manner prefaced by laudatory addresses, which are from the pens of men of celebrity—Daniel Heinsius, Greek professor of Leyden, (who appropriately uses his professional language,) Gaspard Bariaeus, the professor of logic at Leyden, and Theodore Schrevelius (probably father to the Lexicographer Cornelius). This work, notwithstanding its title, will be readily understood to be generally metaphysical, and the portion tending to that species of discussion is that from which a modern student will derive most satisfaction. It consists of nine books. The first is introductory, containing definitions, &c., the second is De Natura, the third De Motu, the fourth De Tempore, the fifth De Caelo, the sixth De Corpore Misto, the seventh De Meteoris, the eighth De Anima, and the ninth De Anima Rationali. Apart from the doctrines now called vulgar errors, for an adherence to which the limited bounds of our own knowledge must teach us to excuse our forefathers, this work may be perused with interest and even profit. To have departed from the text of Aristotle might have been considered equal in heresy to a denial of any of the evident laws of nature; but if Jack was like others, a mere commentator on the great lawgiver of philosophers, he frequently clothes original views in correct, clear, and logical language; his discussions on time and motion might not be ungrateful to a student of Hutcheson or Reid; and though almost unknown to his country, and forgotten in his native city, he is no contemptible member of the class of common-sense philosophers of whom Scotland has boasted. In 1724, Jack published another work, entitled "Institutiones Medicae," republished in 1631. About this period his celebrity had reached the British isles; and, like his illustrious friend and comrade Vossius, the author of the History of Pelagianism, he was invited to fill the chair of civil history at Oxford, a proffer he declined. This eminent man died on the 17th day of April, 1628, leaving behind him a widow and ten children. He seems to have been on terms of intimate and friendly familiarity with the greatest men of the age. He is said to have been a hard student, to have possessed vast powers of memory, and to have been more attentive to the elegancies of life, and to his personal appearance, than scholars then generally were.


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