Professors of Natural Philosophy at the Universities of Aberdeen *

George Skene  MA MD  14 Apr 1741- 3rd Mar 1803

Skene succeeded Wm Duncan as Professor of Natural Philosophy in October 1760. George Skene was a Marischal College graduate of 1755 at an impressively young age and a King's College MD of 1762. George was certainly not the first 19 year old to be appointed to a Chair at Marischal College in the 18th century. His father, Francis Skene, had been made a Regent in 1734 and when the rotating regent scheme was abolished he was allocated to teach Civil and Natural History to second year students. His father also had a thriving medical practice. Natural History and medicine were more to George Skene's tastes, not that his 15 year tenure of the Natural Philosophy Chair was criticised at the time. There is little doubt that the bright son with his MD would have helped out in his father's practice. When his father died in 1775, George secured a translation to the less onerous Chair of Civil and Natural History. In 1788 he demitted this Chair to concentrate solely on practising medicine in Aberdeen.

George Skene

With permission from the portrait of George Skene by John Megget in the University of Aberdeen (ABDUA:30152)

George Skene lived in Fountainhall House that he had inherited from his father. It was then on the outskirts of Aberdeen. Upon his death in 1803 the house was bought by his successor in the Chair of Natural Philosophy, Professor Copland. Copland and his family lived in it until his death in 1822 and his widow died there in 1852. The house still exists and is now particularly associated with Patrick Copland. For more on Fountainhall House, see The Scientific Tourist.


George Skene's graveGrave of George Skene, horizontal slab in the foreground, in St Nicholas churchyard. The writing is quite badly weathered but begins HERE LIE THE REMAINS OF/DR GEORGE SKENE PHYSICIAN IN ABERDEEN/FOR 28 YEARS PROFESSOR OF NATURAL HISTORY/IN THE MARISCHAL COLLEGE AND/WHO DIED 25th MARCH 1803 and is followed by details of 3 daughters. Writing history in stone does not guarantee accuracy. It's true he was Professor for 28 years but he was Professor of Natural Philosophy for 15 of those years.


Page by

John S. Reid

Dec. 2017