Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gregory, John (1724-1773)
GREGORY, JOHN (1724–1773), professor of medicine at Edinburgh University, the youngest son of James Gregory, professor of medicine in King's College, Aberdeen (d. 1731), and grandson of James Gregory (1638-1675) [q. v.], was born at Aberdeen on 3 June 1724, his mother, Anne Chalmers, being his father's second wife. He was educated at Aberdeen under the care of his elder brother, James Gregory, who had succeeded his father, and also under the influence of his cousin, Thomas Reid the metaphysician. In 1741 he entered upon medical study at Edinburgh, and attended the lectures of Monro primus, Sinclair, and Rutherford. He formed here a warm friendship with Akenside. After completing his medical course at Edinburgh Gregory studied at Leyden in 1745-6, under Albinus. The degree of M.D. was conferred upon him at Aberdeen in his absence, and on his return in 1746 he was elected professor of philosophy there, and lectured for three years on mathematics and moral and natural philosophy. In 1749 he resigned the professorship in order to devote himself to medical practice, and in 1752 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Forbes, a lady of beauty, wit, and fortune. As Aberdeen did not afford sufficient practice for him and his elder brother, he removed in 1754 to London. He already knew Wilkes and Charles Townshend,and now became acquainted with George, lord Lyttelton,and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. He had been elected fellow of the Royal Society, and was on the way to success when his elder brother died, and he was recalled to Aberdeen to succeed him. He practised and lectured on medicine at Aberdeen till 1764, when he removed to Edinburgh with a view to gaining a more lucrative chair, which fell to him in 1766 on the resignation of Rutherford, whose preference for Gregory prevailed against Cullen's candidature [see Cullen, William]. The same year he was appointed physician to the king in Scotland, in succession to Whytt. At first he lectured solely on the practice of physic, but in 1768, Cullen having succeeded to Whytt's chair of the institutes of physic (mainly a physiological one), an arrangement was made by which Gregory and Cullen lectured in alternate years on the institutes and practice of physic. As a lecturer he was successful without being brilliant, his style being simple and direct. His medical writings were of no great importance. His general character was that of good sense and benevolence. He was an intimate friend of David Hume, Lord Monboddo, Lord Kaimes, Dr. Blair, the elder Tytler, and James Beattie, whose affection for him is testified in the closing stanzas of ‘The Minstrel.’ He died suddenly of gout on 9 Feb. 1773, in his 49th year. He left three sons (James (1753-1821) [q. v.], his successor; William, who became one of the six preachers in Canterbury Cathedral, and was father of George Gregory (1790-1854) [q. v.]; and John, d. 1783) and two daughters, the elder, Dorothea, married to the Rev. Archibald Alison. He was rather tall and heavy-looking, but his manners and conversation were prepossessing.
- ‘A Comparative View of the State and Faculties of Man with those of the Animal World,’ 1766; 7th edition, 1777.
- ‘Observations on the Duties and Offices of a Physician, and on the Method of prosecuting Enquiries in Philosophy,’ 1770 (afterwards issued under the title of ‘Lectures on the Duties,’ &c., 1772). A revised edition by his son James, was published in 1805.
- ‘Elements of the Practice of Physic,’ 1772 (2nd edition, 1774).
- ‘A Father's Legacy to his Daughters,’ 1774; very many editions were published, often together with Mrs. Chapone's ‘Letters on the Improvement of the Mind;’ an edition was published as late as 1877. Numerous French editions also appeared.
His works were issued in four volumes in 1788, with a life prefixed. The library of the surgeon-general's office, Washington, U.S., contains a manuscript volume of Gregory's lectures, 1768-9, and another volume of notes of his clinical lectures, 1771, besides two engraved portraits of him.
[Life prefixed to Gregory's Works, by Lord Woodhouselee; Life by W. Smellie, in his Literary and Characteristical Lives, 1800; Ramsay's Scotland and Scotsmen in the Eighteenth Century, pp. 477-82.]