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Significant Scots
George Low


LOW, GEORGE, an ingenious naturalist, was born at Edzel in Forfarshire, in the year 1746. He was educated at the universities of Aberdeen and St Andrews, and afterwards was tutor in the family of Mr Graham at Stromness in Orkney. During his residence at this place, Mr (afterwards Sir Joseph) Banks and Dr Solander arrived at the island, on their return from the last voyage of discovery, in which captain Cook lost his life; and Mr Low, having acquired a taste for natural history, was much noticed by these distinguished philosophers, and was requested to accompany them in their excursions through the Orkneys, and also to the Shetland islands, which he accordingly did.

In 1774, he was ordained to the ministerial charge of the parish of Birsay and Staray, on the mainland of Orkney, to which he devoted the remainder of his life, employing his leisure in the study of nature. Considering the disadvantages of his situation, his success was highly creditable. Sir Joseph Banks, with his accustomed zeal for the promotion of science, introduced him to Mr Pennant, by whose advice he engaged to undertake a "Fauna Orcadensis," and a "Flora Orcadensis." Before these works could be given to the world, he died, in 1795. The MSS. of the former work, with his zoological collections, and the manuscript of a translation of Torfaeus’s History of Orkney, executed by Mr Low, came into the possession of Mr George Paton, the eminent antiquary, at whose decease they were sold to different persons. The "Fauna" was published in 1813, 4to, by W.F. Leach, M.D., F.L.S., and forms a very interesting addition to the natural history of the British Islands. The "Flora" has not been discovered. A tour through Orkney and Shetland, containing hints relative to their ancient, modern, and natural history, was also prepared for the press by this industrious individual, but, owing to his premature death, was never published.


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