Page images
[ocr errors]

Initted a licentiate of the Royal College of ending his days there. To the Colof Physicians, in London,

He was

lege of Physicians in that city he preelected a fellow in 1763, created a ba- sented ten folio volumes in manuscript, ronet in 1766, and president of the of his own medical and physical obserRoyal Society in 1772; having, in the vations, on condition that they should meantime, been successively appointed not be published nor lent out of the physician-extraordinary and in ordinary college library. Finding the climate of to the queen, to the princess dowager Scotland too cold for him, he returned, of Wales, and physician-extraordinary after a few months, to London, and to the king. He was also enrolled a died there on the 18th of January, 1782. member of the Academies of Sciences of He was buried in St. James's Church, Gottingen, Madrid, Paris, and Peters- and a monument has been erected to burgh, besides other scientific societies. his memory in Westminster Abbey.

In his situation of president of the Sir John Pringle has been described Royal Society, he was particularly active as a man of integrity and worth, but and assiduous in the discharge of his less amiable than respectable in society, duties. He composed a set of discourses in consequence of a cold and reserved at the annual delivery of the prize disposition. To foreigners, however, he inedal, which were detailed accounts of was peculiarly attentive and polite; and all that had previcusly been discovered in friendship. once formed, he was steadin the particular branch of science, fast and unalterable. His studies were which was the subject of the prize chiefly direcied to scientific and philomemoir. These discourses, of which sophical inquiry, which a remarkably he pronounced six, were printed after solid understanding, unmixed with any. the author's death, and show him in thing like fancy or brilliancy, enabled the light of a very well informed and him to pursue with great success. He elegant writer. He resigned his presi- was, in early life, a sceptic in religion ; dency in 1778; and, in 1781, took a but, some years before his death, he house in Edinburgh, with the intention became a firm believer in revelation.



BENJAMIN ROBINS was born of | Newton's Treatise Quadratures,
Quaker parents, in low circumstances, when he was only twenty years of age.
at Bath, in the year 1707. As he re- This performance was inserted in the
ceived but a scanty education at school, Philosophical Transactions for 1727;
he resolved to become his own instruc- and, towards the end of the same year,
tor, and, with the aid of books, he soon the author was admitted a member of
made considerable progress in various the Royal Society. The publication of
branches of literature, and particularly John Bernouilli's demonstration, not
in the mathematics. His friends re- long afterwards, in which that cele-
commended him to settle in London, as brated philosopher attempted to eslab-
a teacher of this science, and, at ihe lish Leibnitz's theory respecting the
same time, sent a specimen of his abili- force of bodies of motion, in opposition
ties to Dr. Pemberton, who put them to that of Newton, gave the subject of
to further proof by giving him some our memoir an opportunity of display.
problems to solve. Mr. Robins did this ing his acquaintance with natural phi-
in the most satisfactory manner, and losophy. This he did in a paper
shortly afterwards came to the metro- published in the Philosophical Trans-
polis : but, before entering upon the actions for May, 1728, under the title
uffice of tutor, employed some time in of The Present State of the Republic
perusing the best masters in the higher of Letters, in which he confuted Ber-
parts of the mathematics. Of the benefit nouilli's performance in the most un-
he thus derived he gave a proof, by his answerable manner.
demonstration of the last proposition of Mr. Robins now began to take pupils,

of which his reputation soon procured gunnery, at the Royal Military Acahim mumbers ; and, about the same demy, at Woolwich ; but interest protime, he renounced the habit and pro

cured the election of his competitor, fession of a Quaker. Finding, how- Mr. Muller. Mr. Robins was indigever, his pursuits limited, more than nant at the preference given to one was agreeable to him, by the profession whose pretensions he thought inferior of a tutor, he gradually gave up teach- to his own; and, in order to show his ing, and devoted his attention to more own competency for the office, pubactive and general employment. With lished, in 1742, a treatise, entitled New a view of ascertaining the effect of the Principles of Gunnery. In this he has resistance of the air on swift projectiles, proved that the opposition of the air to he made several experiments in gun- bullets and shells, discharged from cannery, and applied himself to the study nons and mortars, is much greater than of civil and military engineering. To generally imagined ; and that the track the art of fortification he paid particular which their motion described, differed attention, and much improved himself from that of a parabolic line, to a dein it, by an inspection of the principal gree undiscovered by any who had fortified places in Flanders, during some written expressly on the subject from journies which he made abroad with the time ot' Galileo. A paper, however, persons of distinction.

shortly afterwards appeared in the PhiHis next publication was intended as losophical Transactions, disputing some an answer to Dr. Berkeley's Analyst, or of his opinions; in consequence of which an attempt to explode the doctrine of he sent several other papers, in exfluxions, and appeared in 1735, under planation, to the Royal Society. He the title of A Discourse concerning the also repeated his experiments before Nature and Certainty of Sir Isaac New- that body, in the years 1746 and 1747, ton's Method of Fluxions, and of Prime which confirmed his doctrine, and proand Ultimate Ratios. As exceptions cured him the Society's annual gold were taken, by some, to this Discourse, medal. The reputation which he ache added two or three pieces in vindi- quired by this success, caused him to cation of it; and, in 1738, he also de- be invited, by the Prince of Orange, fended Newton against an objection to assist in the defence of Bergen-opcontained in a note at the end of Bax- | Zoom, then besieged by the French; ter's Matho, sive Cosmotheoria Puerilis. but, before he could arrive at the town,

Mr. Robins, did not, however, con- it was captured. fine his writings to scientific subjects, In 1748, Mr. Robins was employed but published, in 1739, three political to review and correct for the press, an pamphlets, entitled, respectively, Obser- Account of Anson's Voyage round the vations on the Present Convention with World, as drawn up by the Rev. Richard Spain ; A Narrative of what had passed Walter; but the performance was found in the Common-hall of the Citizens of so imperfect, that he was desired to London, assembled for the election of a write a new account of the voyage Lord Mayor; and An Address to the himself. This was published with the Electors and other Free Subjects of name of Walter on the title-page; Great Britain, occasioned by the late though the whole of the introduction, succession, with a particular account of and many dissertations in the body of all our negotiations in Spain, and their the work, were composed by Mr. Rotreatment of us for above ten years bins, without his receiving the least past. The last of these was, for some hint from Walter's manuscript. This time, attributed to Mr. Pulteney, then production was considered the most the leader of the opposition against Sir popular of the kind ever written; and, Robert Walpole; and the whole dis- besides going through numerous ediplayed such ability, that when an in- tions in this country, was, in a very quiry took place into the conduct of that short space of time, translated into most minister, the committee of the house of of the European languages. He was commons, appointed for that purpose, next employed to draw up an apology chose Mr. Robins as their secretary.

for the defeat of the king's troops, by In 1741, he became a candidate for the rebels, at Preston Pans, which was the professorship of fortification and printed as a preface to a Report of an

[ocr errors]


examination into the conduct of Lieu climate soon affected his health, and tenant-general Sir John Cope, and was proved fatal to him on the 29th of July, considered, at the time, a master-piece 1751, when he was only forty-four of its kind.

years of age. Mr. Robins made great improvements The reputation of Mr. Robins is to the Royal Observatory, at Green-chiefly founded on his New Principles wich, by procuring for it a mural quad- of Gunnery, which has been commented rant, and other instruments; by which upon by several eminent mathemameans it became the completest in the ticians, besides being translated into world. In 1749, he was offered one of two various foreign languages, and par. appointments,-either to go to Paris, ticularly into German, by the celebrated as one of the commissioners for ad Euler. As a mathematical writer, he justing our limits in Acadia; or to is considered one of the most accurate become engineer-general to the East and elegant in the English language. India Company; the latter of which he His mathematical and philosophical accepted, as more in accordance with pieces were collected together, and pubhis genius. He arrived in India in the lished in 1761, in two volumes, octavo, summer of 1750, but the difference of with an account of his life.


THIS eminent divine and philosopher, most eminent men of science and litethe son of a clergyman, who was mi rature at each of those places. nister of Strachan, in Kincardineshire, In 1737, he was presented, by King's was born there on the 26th of April, College, Aberdeen, to the living of New 1710. He received the rudiments of Machar, in the same county; but, on education at the parish school of Kin- his assuming the duties of his station, cardine, and was afterwards placed he had the mortification to find himunder the care of a tutor at Aberdeen, self received, by his parishioners, with the Marischal College of which place disapprobation and opposition. This he entered, at the early age of twelve. was owing to their dislike of patron. Mathematics was the branch of learning age, and to the intemperate conduct in which he particularly distinguished of their former pastor, which had so himself during the usual course of four inflamed their minds, that they treated years' study; at the expiration of which his successor with a hostility, that even he, probably, according to the custom menaced his life. More fortunate than of the university, graduated M.A. After the blind poet, Blacklock, under similar he had made sufficient progress in theo- circumstances, the subject of our me. logy, he was licensed to preach ; but moir continued to maintain his ground. in consequence of his appointment to His mild and forbearing temper quickly the office of librarian, he did not im- conciliated his parishioners; and not mediately, quit Aberdeen. This situa- many years afterwards, we are told, tion gave him an opportunity of turning that when he was called to a different to advantage his passion for study; and situation, the same persons who had his connexion with Mr. John Stewart, taken a share in the outrages against the professor of mathematics in the him, followed him, on his departure, same university, confirmed his own with blessings and tears. “We fought predilection for that science, of his skill against Mr. Reid,” said some of them, in which he gave occasional proof, by " when he came, and we would have reading lectures for his friend. On his fought for him when he went away." resignation of his office of librarian, in During his residence at New Machar, 1736, he made a short excursion to while he attended to his pastoral duties England, in company with Mr. Stewart; with the most active zeal, and pursued and during his stay at London, Oxford, his studies with intense application, it and Cambridge, was introduced to the is remarkable that he so far distrusted

his own abilities, as to preach, for a gence and success to the study of its considerable time, the sermons of Til new theories and new nomenclature. lotson and Evans. A careful examina. He communicated his views upon this tion of the laws of external perception and other subjects, in short essays, to the formed the particular employment of philosophical society of which he was a his leisure thoughts; though a treatise, member. Three of them, entitled An which he composed about this time, Examination of Priestley's Opinions conshows that he had not altogether relin- cerning Matter and Mind; Observations quished his mathematical investigations on the Utopia of Sir Thomas More ; It was entitled, An Essay on Quantity, and Physiological Reflections on Musoccasioned by reading a Treatise, in cular Matter, were written in his eightywhich Simple and Compound Ratios sixth year, and read to his associates a are applied to Virtue and Merit, and short time before his death. This took was published in the Philosophical place at Glasgow, where he expired, Transactions for 1748.

after a severe struggle, attended with In 1752, he was appointed professor palsy, on the 7th of October, 1796. of philosophy at King's College, Aber Dr. Reid possessed an excellent deen; and, not long after his return to bodily constitution, a vigorous and aththat city, he established, with Dr. John letic form, and, though under the midGregory, and others, a literary society, dle size, great muscular strength. These which gave rise to a spirit of philoso- natural advantages were enhanced by phical research, that produced some habits of exercise and temperance, and of the most distinguished works in a serenity of mind which was seldom Scotch literature. Among others, was disturbed. His countenance expressed that celebrated one of our author, An deep thought, and when not brightened Inquiry into the Human Mind, on the up by conversation with a friend, still principles of Common Sense, published assumed a look of good will and kindin 1764. The chief object of this was ness, and might be said to be always the refutation of the philosophy of more grave than stern. The most proLocke and Hartley, by denying the minent features of his character, says connexions which they supposed to Dr. Aikin, were intrepid and inflexible subsist between the phenomena, powers, rectitude ; a pure and devoted attachand operations of the mind. It was re ment to truth; and an entire command ceived with great applause; and among over all his passions. In private life, other results of the fame he acquired he continues, no man ever maintained, by it, were his creation of D. D. by more eminently or uniformly, the dig. the University of Aberdeen, and his nity of philosophy; combining, with appointment to the chair of moral the most amiable modesty and gentlephilosophy, at Glasgow. He enteredness, the noblest spirit of independence. upon the duties of his station in 1764, Gardening and botany were his chief and devoted himself to them with un amusements; and he retained his prevaried diligence; inculcating principles dilection for them up to the time of his which appeared to him to be of essen decease. He was married to his cousin, tial importance to human happiness, as the daughter of a physician, in 17-10, the chief aim of his lectures. He who died some time before the subject quitted the chair in 1781, having, in of our memoir, leaving him the meantime, published, as an appendix daughter. to the third volume of Lord Kaimes's Something should be said of the Sketches of the History of Man, A Brief | writings of this amiable man, though, Account of Aristotle's Logic, with re in a work like the present, an analysis marks. This was followed, in 1785, by of a work so well known as The Inhis Essays on the Intellectual Powers quiry into the Human Mind, will not of Man; and, in 1788, by those On the be expected.

It will be sufficient to Active Powers, which may be consi: observe, that his chief aim is to show dered as completing the system of phi- our judgment of things, or the belief losophy begun in his inquiry. Towards which we have concerning them, to be the latter part of his life, he paid much the gift of nature; and not, as contended attention to chemistry, and is said to by Berkeley and others, the acquisihave applied himself with equal dili tion of reason. In endeavouring to


prove this intuitive faculty, he attacks, but a belief of its existence, and a bewith great skill, the division of our lief of some disorder in my toe which notions into ideas of sensation, and occasions it; and this belief is not proideas of reflection; contending that it duced by comparing ideas, and peris illogical, because the second men,berceiving ibeir agreements and disagreeof the division includes the first. “Sen ments; it is included in the very nature sation," he argues, “is an operation of of the sensation. When I perceive a the mind, of which we are conscious; and tree before me, my faculty of seeing we get the notion of sensation by reflect gives me not only a notion or simple ing upon that which we are conscious apprehension of the tree, but a belief of." We shall conclude, by an extract of its existence, and of its figure, disfrom that part of his work in which he tance, and magnitude ; and this judgcombats the representation of our senses ment or belief is not got by comparing as having no other office but that of ideas, it is included in the very nature furnishing the mind with notions or of the perception. Such original and simple apprehensions of things; a doc. natural judginents are, therefore, a part trine, whichi, he contends, is deducible of that furniture which nature hath from the Cartesian system, in its ac- given to the human understanding." count of our judgment and belief con The numerous objections which have cerning things. “We have shewn," been made to his system, have been he says, “on the contrary, that every ably answered by his biographer, Duoperation of the senses, in its very gald Stewart, who regards the writings nature, implies judgment or belief, as of Reid as forining the finest school for well as simple apprehension. Thus, the acquirement of reflecting on the when I feel the pain of the gout in my operations of our own mind, that has toe, I have not only a notion of pain, hitherto appeared.



THOMAS SIMPSON, the son of a gems, to continue his reading, and the working stuff-weaver, was born result was a serious quarrel between Market Bosworth, in Leicestershire, in him and his father, which ended in his the year 1710. He was intended for being ordered to leave the house altohis father's business, in which he com- gether, and to go and seek his fortune menced working at a very early age, where and in whatever way he chose. and after having received no other edu Simpson now took up his abode in cation than a very partial knowledge of the house of a tailor's widow, in the reading. On being taken from school, neighbouring village of Nuneaton, with however, he resolved to become his whose son he had been previously acown instructor, and, aceordingly, de- quainted. Here he continued to work voted, not only all his leisure, but a at his trade, but still contrived to find portion of his working hours, to study. sufficient time for reading whatever He soon contrived to teach himself books came in his way. An acquaintwriting, and, by a perusal of almost ance which he formed with a pedlar, every work that came in his way, who was an occasional lodger in the greatly extended his acquaintance with same house, first turned his attention to books. His father, instead of encou those studies for which he afterwards raging, viewed, with displeasure, this became so eminent. The pedlar was pernicious fondness, as he considered it, also a fortune-teller, and bad, in this for study, in his son ; and, after several character, acquired great reputation severe reprimands, at length insisted among the rustics of the village. Simpthat he should never open another son became anxious to know the secrets book. The subject of our memoir, of his art, and his friend readily lent however, was not to be defeated in his him such books as he had relating to object; he made use of various strata astrology, and to the real branches of

« PreviousContinue »