a surname, originally a baptismal name, not confined to Scotland, as
it was that of several popes and illustrious men on the continent, but
remarkable as the surname of a family, by descent MacGregors,
distinguished for literary and scientific talent, of the different
members of which memoirs are here given. In 1624 about three hundred
of the clan Gregor were transported to the north by the earl of Moray,
from his estates in Monteith, to oppose the Macintoshes, most of whom
settled in Aberdeenshire. In 1715, when Rob Roy was sent by the earl
of Mar to that county to raise a part of their descendants, who were
of his own family (the race of the Ciar Mohr), he became acquainted
with a relation of his own, Dr. James Gregory, professor of medicine
in King’s college, Aberdeen, in return for whose kindness and
hospitality he offered to take with him to the hills, and “make a man
of him,” his son Dr. James Gregory, then a boy, but afterwards, like
his father, professor of medicine in King’s college – a request which,
of course, was delicately declined. (See Introduction to Sir Walter
Scott’s Novel of Rob Roy.)
of Kinnairdie, an elder brother of the inventor of the reflecting
telescope, and who himself possessed a remarkable turn for
mathematical and mechanical knowledge, was born in 1627 or 1628. He
was the son of the Rev. John Gregory, minister of Drumoak, in
Aberdeenshire, by his wife, the daughter of Mr. David Anderson of
Finshaugh, commonly called, at Aberdeen, “Davie Do a’ Thing,” from his
multifarious attainments, whose brother, Alexander Anderson, was, abut
the beginning of the seventeenth century, professor of mathematics in
the university of Paris. He was educated by his father for trade, and
served an apprenticeship to a mercantile house in Holland. In 1655,
having relinquished all commercial pursuits, he returned to Scotland,
and succeeded, on the death of an elder brother, to the estate of
Kinnairdie, situated about forty miles north of Aberdeen, where he
lived many years, and where thirty-two children were born to him by
two wives. Three of his sons were professors of mathematics at the
same time in three of the British universities, namely, David at
Oxford, James at Edinburgh, and Charles at St. Andrews; and one of his
daughters was mother of the celebrated Dr. Thomas Reid of Glasgow.
Devoting himself, in his retirement, to the cultivation of science and
the study of medicine, which he practised gratuitously among his
neighbours, and being, moreover, the only one in that part of the
country who possessed a barometer, by which he obtained a knowledge of
the weather, he incurred the suspicion of the ignorant and
superstitious as a dealer in the ‘black art,’ and narrowly escaped
being formally tried by the presbytery of the bounds for witchcraft or
conjuration. A deputation of that reverend body waited upon him to
inquire into the ground of certain reports that were in circulation
concerning him; but he was able to give them the most ample and
satisfactory explanation, whereby a prosecution was averted.
beginning of the eighteenth century he removed to Aberdeen with his
family, and having invented an engine to make the shot of great guns
more destructive to the enemy, he sent a model of it to his son, the
Savilian professor at Oxford, that he might obtain his and Sir Isaac
Newton’s opinion of it. The latter at once condemned this improvement
in artillery as calculated to increase the horrors of war, and
recommended that it should be destroyed. As the machine was never
afterwards found, it is supposed that the professor followed Newton’s
advice. On the breaking out of the rebellion in 1715, Mr. Gregory went
a second time to Holland, but returned when it was over to Aberdeen,
where he died about 1720, aged ninety-three. He left behind him a
history of his own time and country, which was never published.
son of the preceding, and nephew of the celebrated inventor of the
reflecting telescope, and himself an eminent mathematician, was born
at Aberdeen, June 24, 1661. He received the rudiments of his education
at his native place, but afterwards removed to the university of
Edinburgh, where he took the degree of M.A. Having early devoted
himself to the study of mathematics, he was in 1684 elected to the
mathematical chair at Edinburgh. On the publication of Sir Isaac
Newton’s ‘Principia’ in 1687, Mr. Gregory adopted the Newtonian
philosophy, and was the first in any of the universities to introduce
it into his lectures.
being informed of Dr. Edmond Bernard’s intention to resign the
Savilian professorship at Oxford, Mr. Gregory left Edinburgh, and,
repairing to London, was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society, to
whose Transactions he afterwards contributed some valuable papers, the
first, and one of the best, of which was his solution of the famous
Florentine problem, sent as a challenge to the British mathematicians.
He next proceeded to Oxford, where, February 8, 1692, he was
incorporated M.A. of Baliol college, and on the 18th of the
same month he received the degree of M.D. He was elected professor of
astronomy there n the room of Dr. Bernard, having been preferred to
the celebrated Dr. Halley, wh soon after became his colleague, in the
Savilian chair of geometry.
In 1695 he
published at Oxford a valuable treatise on Optics, chiefly as regards
the construction of telescopes. In 1697 his demonstration of the
properties of the Catenarian Curve appeared in the Philosophical
Transactions; and in 1702 was published his most celebrated work,
‘Astronomiae Physicae et Geometricae Elementa,’ folio, which was
afterwards translated into English, with additions. In 1703, in
pursuance of a design projected by Sir Henry Savile, namely, to print
a uniform series of the ancient mathematicians, he published an
edition of the books of Euclid, in Greek and Latin, folio; and
afterwards, in conjunction with Dr. Halley, he commenced the Conics of
Appollonius, but was prevented from completing the work by an illness,
which terminated in his death, October 10, 1710. He had married, in
1695, Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. Oliphant of Langtown, by whom he had
Geometrica de dimensione figurarum sive specimen methodi generalis
demetiendi quasvis figuras. Edin. 1684, 4to.
Catenaria, Demonstrationes Geometricae. Oxf. 1697, fol.
Geometricae et Physicae Elementa. Oxf. 1702, fol. Translated into
English; with additions. To which is added, Halley’s Synopsis of the
Astronomy of Comets, revised and corrected by Edmund Stone. Lond.
1713, 1726, 2 vols. 8vo.
Opera Omnia, Greek et Latin. Oxf. 1703, fol.
et Dioptricae Sphericae Elementa. Oxf. 1695, 8vo. In English. Lond.
1705, 1715, 8vo. By Sir W. Brown, M.D. 3d edit. Lond. 1735, 8vo, by
Dr. Desaguliers; to which he added, The History f the two Reflecting
Telescopes, with their several improvements at that time; with
original papers between Sir Isaac Newton and Dr. James Gregory
Practical Geometry, in 3 parts. Translated from the Latin. Edin. 1745,
8vo. 2d edition. Edin. 1751.
the Florentine Problem, concerning the Testudo Veliformis Quadrabilis.
Phil. Trans. 1695. Abr. iii.
Properties of the Catenaria, or Curve Line, formed by a heavy and
flexible chain hanging freely from two points of suspension. Ib. 1697,
Abr. iv. P. 184.
Eclipse of the Sun, Sep. 13, 1699. Ib. 1699. 426
the Catenary. Ib 456.
Orbit of the Planets. 1704. Abr. v. p. 152.
a distinguished mathematician, and, excepting Newton, the greatest
philosopher of his age, was born at Drumoak, in Aberdeenshire, in
1638. He was a younger brother of Mr. David Gregory of Kinnairdie (see
above). He was educated in Marischal college, Aberdeen, where he
became well versed in classical learning. The works of Galileo, Des
Cartes, and Kepler, were, however, his principal study, and he began
early to make improvements on their discoveries in optics, the most
important of which was his invention of the reflecting telescope,
which still bears his name. In 1663 he published at London a
description of this instrument, in a quarto work, entitled ‘Optica
promota, seu abdita radiorum reflexorum ex refractorum mysteria
Geometricae enucleata.’ In 1664 he visited London for the purpose of
perfecting the mechanical construction of the instrument, but not
being able to obtain a speculum ground and polished, of a proper
figure, he abandoned the design for a time, and set out on a tour for
Italy. He staid some time at Padua, the university of which was at
that time famed for mathematical science; and while there he
published, in 1667, a treatise on the Quadrature of the Circle and
Hyperbola, which was reprinted at Venice in 1668, with an appendix on
the transmutation of curves.
return to England, Mr. Gregory was elected a member of the Royal
Society, whose Transactions he enriched with some valuable papers. His
treatise on the Quadrature of the Circle involved him in a discussion
with Mr. Huygens, who attacked his method in a scientific journal of
that period, and Gregory replied in the Philosophical Transactions.
Both controversialists, but particularly Gregory, conducted the
dispute with much unnecessary warmth and asperity. In 1668 he was
elected professor of mathematics in the university of St. Andrews; and
in 1669 he married Mary, the daughter of George Jamesone, the
celebrated painter, styled by Walpole the Scottish Vandyke. By this
lady he had a son and two daughters.
In 1672 Mr.
Gregory published a small satirical tract, under an assumed name, the
object of which was to expose the ignorance displayed in his
hydrostatical writings by Mr. George Sinclair, formerly professor of
natural philosophy in Glasgow. Some objections made by Sir Isaac
Newton to the construction of the telescope invented by Gregory, gave
rise, in 1672, to a controversy between these two illustrious men,
which was conducted for two years with praiseworthy courtesy and good
faith on both sides. In 1674 Mr. Gregory was invited to fill the
mathematical chair at Edinburgh, and accordingly removed thither with
his family. In October 1675, after being engaged one evening in
pointing out to some of his pupils the satellites of Jupiter, he was
suddenly struck with total blindness, and died three days thereafter,
in the 37th year of his age.
promota seu abdita radiorum reflexorum ex refractorum mysteria
Geometricae enucleata, cum Appendice subtillissimorum Astronomiae
problematum resolutionem exhibente. Lond. 1663, 4to.
et Hyperbolae Quadratura. Patav. 1667, 4to. Et cui accedit Geometria
pars universalis, inserviens quantitatum curvarum transmutationi et
mensurae. Patav. 1668
Exercitationes Geometricae. Lond. 1668, 1678, 4to.
and new art of weighing Vanity; or a Discovery of the Ignorance and
Arrogance of the great and new Artist, in his pseudo-Philosophical
writings. By M. Patrick Mathers, Arch-bedel to the University of St.
Andrew’s. To which are annexed, Tentamina quaedam Geometrica de motu
penduli, projectorum, &c. Glas. 1672, 8vo.
Physicae et Geometriae Elementa. Oxon. 1702, fol.
the Animadversions of Mr. Huygens upon his Book, De Vera Circuli, &c.;
as they were published in the Journal des Scavans of July 2, 1668.
Phil. Trans. 1668. Abr. i. P. 268.
Extract of a
Letter of Mr. James Gregory to the Publisher; containing some
Observations on M. Huygens’ Letter, printed in vindication of his
Examen of the Book entit. Vera Circuli et Hyperbolae Quadratura. Ib.
1669, Abr. i. P. 319.
an eminent medical and moral writer, and one of the most distinguished
members of his illustrious family, which has furnished such a number
of gifted professors to the British universities, was born at
Aberdeen, June 3, 1724. He was the youngest of three children of James
Gregory, professor of medicine in King’s college, Old Aberdeen, and
the grandson of the celebrated inventor of the reflecting telescope.
He received his academical education at King’s college, and in 1742 he
removed with his mother to Edinburgh, where he studied medicine for
three years under Professors Monro, Sinclair, and Rutherford. In 1745
he went to the university of Leyden, and during his residence there he
received from King’s college, Old Aberdeen, the degree of M.D. In 1747
he returned home, and was elected professor of philosophy in that
university, where he lectured on mathematics, and moral and natural
philosophy; and in 1749 resigned his chair from a desire to devote
himself to the practice of medicine. In 1752 he married the daughter
of Lord Forbes. In 1754 he repaired to London to practise, where he
became acquainted with Lord Lyttleton, Lady Mary Wortley Montague, and
other eminent persons, and was chosen a fellow of the Royal Society.
In 1755, on the death of his brother, Dr. James Gregory, he was
elected his successor in the chair of medicine at Old Aberdeen, when
he returned to his native city, and entered on the duties of his
professorship in 1756. His first publication, entitled ‘A Comparative
View of the State and Faculties of Man with those of the Animal
World,’ appeared in 1764, under the patronage of his friend, Lord
Lyttleton. This work he had at first composed as essays for ‘The Wise
Club,’ a society projected by Drs. Reid and Gregory, and consisting of
the professors of both Marischal and King’s college, and other
literary and scientific gentlemen of Aberdeen, who met weekly in a
tavern in that city, for the purpose of hearing essays on literary and
philosophical subjects read by its members.
[portrait of Dr. John Gregory]
About the beginning of 1765 Dr. Gregory removed to Edinburgh,
with a view to the increase of his practice; and two years afterwards
he was appointed professor of the practice of physic in the university
there, in the room of Dr. Rutherford, who resigned in his favour. In
1766, upon the death of Dr. Whytt, he was nominated first physician to
his majesty for Scotland. In consequence of an arrangement with his
colleague, Dr. Cullen, they lectured for many years alternately on the
theory and practice of medicine, to the great benefit of the young men
attending their classes. One of Dr. Gregory’s students having taken
notes of his preliminary lectures on the practice of physic, an
extended copy of which he offered to a bookseller for publication, he
was induced to bring out a correct edition of these lectures himself,
which he did in 1770, under the title of ‘Observations on the Duties
and Office of a Physician, and on the Method of prosecuting Inquiries
in Philosophy,’ the profits of which he generously gave to a poor and
deserving student. The same year he published his ‘Elements of the
Practice of Physic,’ intended as a syllabus to his lectures, but from
want of leisure the work was never completed. Dr. Gregory, who had
from the age of eighteen been subject to repeated attacks of
hereditary gout, died suddenly n his bed on the night of February 9,
1773. He left in manuscript an invaluable little treatise, entitled ‘A
Father’s Legacy t his Daughters,’ written after the death of his wife,
who died in 1761, and designed for the private instruction of his own
family. It was published soon after his death by his eldest son,
James, the subject of the following notice, who succeeded Dr. Cullen
as professor of the practice of physic in the university of Edinburgh.
Besides Dr. James Gregory, he had another son and two daughters,
namely, the Rev. William Gregory, rector of St. Mary’s, Bentham;
Dorothea, the wife of the Rev. W. Allison of Baliol college, Oxford;
and Margaret, wife of John Forbes, Esq. of Blackford, Aberdeenshire.
GREGORY, JAMES, M.D.,
an eminent physician and medical professor, eldest son of the
preceding, by his wife, the Hon. Elizabeth Forbes, daughter of the
thirteenth Lord Forbes, was born at Aberdeen in 1753. He received his
education partly at the grammar school instituted by Dr. Patrick Dunn
in his native city, and after his father’s removal to Edinburgh, at
the university there. In 1774 he took his degree as M.D., his thesis
being ‘De Morbis Caeli Mutatione Medendis.’ Repairing to Leyden, he
attended the lectures of the celebrated Gobius, the favourite student
and immediate successor of the great Boerhaave. In 1776, when only
twenty-three years of age, he was appointed professor of the theory of
physic in the university of Edinburgh, and as a text-book for his
lectures, he published in 1780-2 his ‘Conspectus Medicinae Theoreticae,’
in 2 vols., which soon became a standard work. In 1790, on the death
of Dr. Cullen, Dr. Gregory was appointed to the chair of the practice
of physic in the same university; the duties f which he discharged for
thirty-one years with a lustre equal, if not superior to that
conferred on the university by his immediate predecessor. He was
distinguished for his classical attainments, and early directed his
attention to the study of metaphysics. In his ‘Philosophical and
Literary Essays,’ published in 1792, in two volumes, 8vo, he opposed
the doctrine of fatalism maintained in Dr. Priestley’s work entitled
‘Philosophical Necessity.’ It is said that previous to publication he
forwarded the manuscripts of his Essays to Dr. Priestley for perusal,
but that the latter declined to read them, on the ground that his mind
was made up, and that he had ceased to think of the subject.
In controversies of a professional and temporary nature Dr.
Gregory had an active share. In 1793 an anonymous work, reflecting on
some of the professors of the university, having appeared, under the
title of ‘A Guide for Gentlemen studying Medicine at the University of
Edinburgh,’ he issued a pamphlet, in which he endeavoured to prove, by
internal evidence, that it was the production of Dr. Hamilton,
professor of midwifery, and his son who was afterwards his assistant.
A paper warfare was the consequence, Dr. Hamilton, junior, having
replied in a well-written pamphlet, in which he showed the
groundlessness of the charge, as well as the unprovoked asperity of
his accuser. To discover the author of the ‘Guide,’ law proceedings
were instituted against the publisher, while Dr. Hamilton, on his
part, raised an action against Dr. Gregory, for traducing his
character. In 1800 he published a ‘Memorial addressed to the Managers
of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, complaining of the younger
members of the College of Surgeons being allowed to perform operations
there.’ this was replied to by Mr. John Bell, surgeon; and the
question engrossed for some time the whole attention of the medical
profession of Edinburgh, In 1806 he entered into a warm discussion
with the college of Physicians, in consequence of some proceedings on
the part of that body which he considered derogatory to the
As a physician Dr. Gregory enjoyed an extensive and lucrative
practice. His great eminence, and his high literary and scientific
reputation, caused him to be elected a fellow of the Royal Society,
and a member of the French Institute. Whilst returning from visiting a
patient, his carriage was accidentally overturned, his arm broken, and
his constitution severely injured. After being repeatedly attacked
with inflammation of the lungs, he died at Edinburgh April 2, 1821, in
his 68th year. The following is his portrait, in the
uniform of the Edinburgh volunteers, taken by Kay in 1795:
[portrait of Dr. James Gregory]
Dr. Gregory was twice married, and by his second wife, a
daughter of Donald Macleod, Esq. of Geanies, he had a large family.
His eldest son, John, having been educated for the bar, was admitted a
member of the faculty of advocates in 1820. Another son, Dr. William
Gregory, was elected in 1839, professor of medicine and chemistry in
King’s college, Old Aberdeen, where he remained till 1844, when he was
appointed by the town council of Edinburgh to the chair of chemistry
and chemical pharmacy in the university of that city. A younger son,
Donald Gregory, was for several years joint secretary to the Society
of Antiquaries of Scotland. He was also secretary to the Iona Club,
founded in 1833, the objects of which were to investigate and
illustrate the history, antiquities, and early literature of the
Highlands of Scotland; honorary member of the Ossianic Society of
Glasgow, and of the Society of Antiquaries, Newcastle on Tyne, and
member of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of the North at Copenhagen.
In 1836 he published a valuable work in one volume, entitled ‘History
of the Western Highlands and Isles of Scotland from 1493 to 1625; with
a brief Introductory Sketch from 80 to 1493;’ dedicated to Lord
Macdonald of the Isles. This work is important as forming one of the
first attempts to investigate the history of the West Highlands and
Isles, by the most careful examination of original documents, and the
various public records, and it must prove essentially useful to every
future writer on the history of the Highlands. He intended to have
followed it up with another volume relating to the Central Highlands;
he had also collected materials for a dissertation ‘On the Manners,
Customs, and Laws of the Highlanders,’ but his death the same year put
a stop to his designs. Mr. Gregory died in October 1836, in the prime
of life. His valuable and extensive collection of documents came into
the possession of the Iona Club, and several valuable communications
by him were inserted n the ‘Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis,’ edited by
that Club, and issued to the members in 1839.
Dr. George Gregory, a nephew of the celebrated Dr. James
Gregory, died at London in January 1853. He had been a distinguished
member of the medical profession for upwards of forty years, and as
long as thirty-five years physician to the Small-pox and Vaccination
Hospital in London. He was elected a fellow of the Royal College of
Physicians in 1839. He was also a physician to the Adult Orphan
Asylum. He was the author of several valuable medical treatises on
small-pox and vaccination, lectures on eruptive fevers, and the
elements of medicine, &c.
Dr. James Gregory’s works are:
Dissertatio Medica de Morbis Coeli Mutatione Medendis. Edin.
1774, 8vo. 1776, 12mo.
Conspectus Mecidinae Theoreticae in usum Academicum. Edin.
1780-2, 2 vols, 8vo. 3d edit. Enlarged and improved. Edin. 1788-90, 2
vols, 8vo. 4th ed. 1812, 8vo. 6th ed. 1818.
Philosophical and Literary Essays. Edin. 1792, 2 vols. 8vo.
Select parts of the Introduction to Dr Gregory’s Philosophical
and Literary Essays; methodically arranged, and illustrated with
Remarks by an Annotator. Lond. 1793, 8vo.
Memorial to the Managers of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.
Edin. 1800, 4to.
Cullen’s first Lines of the Practice of Physic; with Notes. 7th
edit. 2 vols. 8vo.
The Theory of the Moods of Verbs. Trans. Soc. Edin. 1790. Vol.
By Agnes Grainger Stewart (1901) (pdf)