Gregory, David (1627-1720) (DNB00)

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GREGORY, DAVID (1627–1720), inventor, son of the Rev. John Gregory, parish minister of Drumoak, on the Kincardineshire border, and elder brother of James Gregory (1638-1675) [q. v.], was born in 1627. He was apprenticed by his father to a mercantile house in Holland. He returned to his native country in 1655, and succeeded, on the death of an elder brother, to the estate of Kinardie, some forty miles north of Aberdeen. Here he resided for many years, and was the father of no less than thirty-two children by two wives. Three of his sons, David (1661-1708) [q. v.], Charles, and James, were good mathematicians. A daughter was the mother of Thomas Reid [q. v.], who recorded most of what is known of his grandfather's career.

Gregory was ridiculed by his neighbours for his ignorance of farming, but regarded as an oracle in medicine. He had a large gratuitous practice among the poor, and was often called in by people of standing also, but would never accept a fee. Being much occupied by his practice by day, he retired to bed early, rose about 2 or 3 a.m., shut himself in with his books and instruments for several hours, and then had another hour's rest before breakfast. He was the first man about Aberdeenshire to possess a barometer, and it is said that his forecasts of weather exposed him to suspicions of witchcraft or conjuration. About the beginning of the eighteenth century he removed to Aberdeen, and during the wars of Queen Anne turned his attention to the improvement of artillery. With the help of an Aberdeen watchmaker he constructed a model of improved cannon, and prepared to take it to Flanders. Meanwhile he forwarded his model to his son David (1661-1708) [q. v.], the Savilian professor, and to Newton. Newton held that it was only calculated for the diabolical purpose of increasing carnage, and urged the professor to break up the model, which was never afterwards found. During the rebellion of 1715 Gregory went a second time to Holland, returning when the trouble had subsided to Aberdeen. He appears to have been discouraged from further invention, and devoted the later years of his long life to the compilation of a history of his time and country which was never published. He died in 1720.

[Dr. Reid's additions to the Lives of the Gregorys in Hutton's Mathematical Dict.]

J. B-y.