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Significant Scots
David Landsborough


LANDSBOROUGH, DAVID, D.D., a successful cultivator of natural history. He was born in Dalry, Galloway, in 1782, and received the rudiments of his education in his native parish. He next studied at the Dumfries Academy, preparatory to entering the university of Edinburgh, where he went through the usual curriculum of a theological education for the Established Church. Whilst attending college he was for some time tutor in the family of Lord Glenlee, who afterwards took a friendly interest in him, and exercised his influence on his behalf. On receiving license, he became assistant in the Old Church of Ayr; but was soon presented to the parish of Stevenston, by the patron, then Mr. Hamilton of Grange. He was accordingly ordained in 1811, and continued pastor of the parish till 1843, the period of the disruption of the Church of Scotland, when he became the Free Church minister of a congregation at Saltcoats. He laboured as formerly, with equal fidelity and acceptance, till September, 1854, when he was suddenly cut off by cholera. What Gilbert White was to his parish of Selborne, Dr. Landsborough was to Stevenston, and the sea-coast of Ardrossan and Saltcoats. In the intervals of professional duty, he studied their natural history in all its departments, showing an equal aptitude for all. The plants, flowering and cryptogramic, the shells, land and marine, fossil botany, and algology, successively passed under his review. But it was more especially to the algae of the Ayrshire and Arran coasts that he devoted his attention during the latter years of his life; and the pages of Dr Harvey’s "Phycologia Britannica" bear ample testimony to the industry and success with which he prosecuted his researches upon these productive shores. Dr Harvey acknowledged his contributions by naming an algae after him; Dr Johnston in like manner gave his name to a zoophyte; and a shell is similarly distinguished. An allusion to the latter in one of his books, illustrates the meekness and piety which blended harmoniously with his scientific enthusiasm:--"When, on another occasion, a friend had given the specific name of Landsburgii to a shell, I said jestingly to the friend who told me of it, ‘Is it possible to sail far down the stream of time in a scallop?’ ‘Yes,’ was the reply, ‘the name that is written on nature will be had in remembrance when sceptres are broken, and thrones overturned, and dynastics have passed away.’ The humble name in question," he adds, "is so faintly inscribed, that the rough wave of time will soon totally efface it; but there is a higher and more permanent honour, that we should all supremely court—that our names be written in the Book of Life; then, when the sun, and the moon, and the stars are darkened, we shall shine with the brightness of the firmament for ever and ever." Dr Landsborough’s first published work was a poem on "Arran," but he was more successful in proclaiming the praise of his favourite island in his subsequent volume of "Excursions," in which he describes its natural history in a very pleasing manner. He was also the author of a "Popular History of British Sea-weeds," and a "Popular History of British Zoophytes," both successful works. A little volume of religious biography, entitled, "Ayrshire Sketches," was his only publication more immediately connected with his profession. He maintained an extensive correspondence with naturalists in all parts of the kingdom, by whom he was esteemed for his varied attainments. His theological acquirements and pastoral fidelity won for him the warm attachment of his flock, and the respect and veneration of the adherents of all religious denominations. His disposition was gentle and amiable in a remarkable degree, and those who enjoyed his friendship loved him with filial affection.


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