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The Scottish Nation

COPLAND, a surname originally English, and signifying a headland, from caput, a head. At the battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346, King David the Second of Scotland was disarmed and taken prisoner by John Copeland, a gentleman of Northumberland, who was governor of Roxburgh Castle, although not without having knocked out two of Copeland’s teeth with his gauntlet, in the struggle to free himself. Copeland conveyed the wounded and bleeding monarch off the field, and on refusing to deliver him up to the queen, who had remained at Newcastle during the battle, King Edward, then at Calais, sent for him, when he excused his refusal so handsomely that the king bestowed on him a reward of five hundred a-year in lands near Wooler, which still bear the name of Copland, and made him a knight banneret. From this Sir John Copeland descended the Coplands of Collieston, in Dumfries-shire, as well as others of the name in Scotland.

COPLAND, PATRICK, LL.D., professor of natural philosophy at Aberdeen, son of the minister of Fintray, in Aberdeenshire, was born at the manse of that parish in January 1749. Having obtained a bursary by competition, he received his education at Marischal college and university of Aberdeen; and, on March 28, 1775, he was elected professor of natural philosophy in that institution In April 1779 he was transferred to the chair of mathematics in the same university, which he filled till July 9, 1817, when he again became professor of the natural philosophy class. He taught with great reputation and success, for upwards of forty years, and, on June 27, 1817, his colleagues conferred on him the honorary degree of LL.D. in acknowledgment of his eminent services. His course of natural philosophy was illustrated by one of the most extensive and complete sets of apparatus in the kingdom, mostly the work of his own hands, or made by workmen under his superintendence. As a lecturer, he was distinguished by his clear method and impressive manner of communicating knowledge, and fixing the attention of his hearers. He was the first in the north of Scotland who gave a regular series of popular lectures on natural philosophy, divesting that science of its most abstruse calculations, and suiting the subject to the mechanic and operative tradesman. His attention was also successfully directed to other sciences. In Mr. Samuel Park’s ‘Chemical and Philosophical Essays,’ due credit is given to Dr. Copland for having introduced into this country an expeditious method of bleaching by oxymuriatic acid, which had been shown to him merely as a curious chemical experiment by the celebrated Professor De Saussure, while at Geneva with the duke of Gordon, in 1787. Mr. Thomas Thomson, however, in the article Bleaching in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, denies that Dr. Copland had any claim to the first introduction of the new process into Great Britain, ascribing the merit of it to the celebrated James Watt. During his long and useful life, Dr. Copland was in frequent correspondence with Watt, Telford, Maskelyne, Leslie, Olinthus Gregory, M. Biot, Dr. Hutton, and other distinguished literary and scientific men. In 1782 he was elected a corresponding member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and, in 1807, an associate of the Linnaean Society of London. Declining health caused him, in September 1822, to resign his professorship, and he died November 10th of that year, in the 73d year of his age. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Dr. David Ogilvy, surgeon, R.N., by whom he had three sons and one daughter.

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