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The Scottish Nation

FULTON, a surname evidently a contraction of Fullarton. Two individuals of this name, originally in humble life, acquired in their respective positions, a popularity in their time which entitles them to a place in any collection of Scottish biographies.

FULTON, GEORGE, an eminent teacher, born February 3, 1752, was originally intended to be a printer, and served his apprenticeship in a printing office in Glasgow. He was afterwards a compositor in Edinburgh, and subsequently in Dumfries. While yet a young man, he married the daughter of a preacher and teacher of Edinburgh, of the name of Tod, and became a teacher himself of a charity school in Niddry’s Wynd of that city. To enable his pupils to become readily proficient in their knowledge of the English tongue, both as regards reading and pronunciation, he made use of moveable letters pasted on pieces of wood, that were kept in boxes like those in a compositor’s case. The idea of improvement in pronunciation was derived partly from Mr. Sheridan’s system, and that of the letter-box from his former trade of a printer.

      His abilities becoming known, he was appointed by the town-council of Edinburgh one of the four teachers of English under the patronage of the city corporation. In 1790 he resigned his situation, and having removed to the new town of Edinburgh, commenced teaching grammar and elocution on his own account. Among his pupils were teachers from various quarters, eager to acquire a knowledge of his system. Having devoted his constant efforts to the improvement of his method, his long experience in teaching enabled him, in co-operation with his nephew, Mr. Knight, to produce a ‘Pronouncing Dictionary,’ which, being at that time unrivalled of its kind, was soon adopted as a standard work in most schools. Acquiring an independence, about 1811 Mr. Fulton resigned his school to his nephew, Mr. George Knight, and spent the remainder of his life at the villa of Summerfield, near Newhaven, which he had purchased in 1806. He died, September 1, 1831, in the 80th year of his age. He was twice married, but had no children.

FULTON, JOHN, a self-taught astronomer and mathematician, born at Fenwick, Ayrshire, in 1800, was eldest son of a shoemaker. After being taught to read and write at the parish school, he began to work at his father’s trade, but soon gave his attention to mechanics, and having constructed a planetary machine, it was bought by the Philosophical Society of Kilmarnock. He afterwards constructed an Orrery, which after nearly ten years’ labour, was completed in 1833, and notwithstanding his scanty means and education, by dint of application during his leisure hours, he executed his undertaking with the greatest accuracy. At this time he studied botany, and took a principal part in the construction of a small gaswork, as well as made a velocipede for a lame lad in his native village. The Orrery was exhibited in the principal towns of Scotland and England, and at Edinburgh Fulton received the silver medal of the Society of Arts for Scotland, value ten sovereigns. He afterwards went to London, and was employed in the establishment of Mr. Bates, mathematical instrument maker to King William IV., where his ingenuity and skill were fully demonstrated in making theodolites for the Pacha of Egypt and balances for her Majesty’s mint. He was 15 years in Mr. Bates’ employment, earning twenty-five to thirty shillings a-week, and on the death of that gentleman found work elsewhere. Nor did his genius develop itself merely in the mechanical arts. He also applied himself, almost unaided, to the study of the languages, five of which he mastered. He was a good French scholar, a proficient in German, a student of Greek, with a considerable knowledge of Italian. His health failed him through excessive application. He was taken ill in 1851, and after being most kindly treated in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, returned to Fenwick in 1852, and, after a lingering illness, died in May 1853, his constitution, naturally robust, having fairly broken down, under the pressure of an overwrought brain.

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