Professors of Natural Philosophy at the Universities of Aberdeen *

Marischal College Regents

The foundation document The following details come from Robert Sangster Rait "The Universities of Aberdeen: A History" [James Gordon Bisset, Aberdeen, 1895]. of Marischal College assigns the Regents to specific years and subjects. Initially the 4th year would be taken by the Principal in his role as Professor, teaching scripture, Hebrew and Syriac.  If that were not enough, also Aristotle’s physiology from the Greek text, a short explanation of anatomy and he would expound on geography, history and the outlines of astronomy.  The 3rd (year) Regent would teach arithmetic, geometry, Cicero’s De Officiis, selections from Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics from the original Greek texts and the scholarly books of Aristotle’s “Organum Physicum”.  And so the description goes on.  I am reminded of the sometimes aspirational wording in a modern University Calendar!  It would take someone with more knowledge of the times than I have to see why such a syllabus needed the foundation of a new University.  The fact is, though, that Marischal College became seen as the more progressive of the two institutions in Aberdeen, particularly in science, mathematics and medicine.  Quite early in its life (1613) it had been left a bequest to fund a Professor of Mathematics who would teach the subject in some depth outwith the usual Arts syllabus.  The donor was Professor Duncan Liddell, an Aberdonian who had made his name and some wealth in Medicine, Mathematics and Astronomy on the Continent.  His bequest also included what now seems a treasure trove of early science and medicine books by Copernicus, Brahe, Apian, Regiomontanus, Mästlin and many others. More on Marischal teaching can be found in the text of individual professors.

Duncan Liddell

The modern-looking face of Duncan Liddell, founder of the Chair of Mathematics in 1616 and benefactor of Marischal College. Portrait possibly by Jamesone, circa 1620, courtesy of the University of Aberdeen. For more on Liddell and his memorials see his entry in The Scientific Tourist.


Page by

John S. Reid

Dec. 2017