Professors of Natural Philosophy at the Universities of Aberdeen *

Rev David Gray MA FRSE FRSSA  1st Feb 1810 - 10th Feb 1856

David Gray graduated from the University of Edinburgh at age 19. After a spell as mathematics teacher at Dollar Academy he was appointed in 1837 as Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at King's College, New Brunswick (later to become the University of New Brunswick). He was 'induced to return to Scotland' for family reasons in 1839 and became Rector of Inverness Academy. With this background he was appointed to the Regius Chair of Natural Philosophy at Marischal College on 7th March 1845.

Gray was described as an excellent mathematician, a good lecturer, and a very successful experimenter. He increased the teaching apparatus at his own expense but the equipment didn't pass to the department and was soldA detailed list of his equipment was advertised in "The Aberdeen Journal" (Aberdeen, Scotland), Wednesday, October 15, 1856; Issue 5675 and in the following week's issue. after his death. Judging by the description alone, his collection looked much like some of the 'traditional' apparatus possessed by Patrick Copland. It is surprising that Gray felt the need to build up his personal stock since the College had purchased Copland's equipment in 1822. A tribute to Gray commented that he took a warm practical interest in the cause of education and he did indeed teach Natural Philosophy at the Aberdeen School of Art (an institution aimed at providing education for workers) and also gave a summer course advertised in the papers. He was a Life Member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science meetings and at least in 1855 a Secretary of the Mathematics and Physics section. Gray was well liked (an affable, generous and benevolent disposition was the description), married and had eight children. It seems, though, that education was his business, not original research. Gray died of an illness contracted towards the end of 1855. A posthumous bustSee the advert by George Russel in The Aberdeen Journal (Aberdeen, Scotland), Wednesday, September 17, 1856; Issue 5671 was created by the contemporary local sculptor George Russel (1810 - 1899) but I have not yet seen the original or a cast.


Page by

John S. Reid

Dec. 2017