Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/162

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532 COLIN MACLAURTN.


out in an ode, or hymn, on the beauties of nature, and the perfection of its Author. Of these, some fragments were preserved by his friends, and although we know not if they were ever published, still they must have possessed considerable in- terest, as serving to develop the openings and improvements of a mind like that of Maclaurin.

When Mr Maclaurin was only nineteen years old, in the autumn of 1717, a vacancy occurred in the professorship of mathematics in the Marischal college of Aberdeen. For this he presented himself as a candidate, and carried along with him the most ample testimonials from his friends at Glasgow, where he had distinguished himself so eminently. A very able competitor appeared in the field against him, but after a competition, or comparative trial of excellence, which lasted for ten days, Mr Maclaurin was declared the successful candidate. Being now fixed in his chair, he quickly revived the taste for mathematical learn- ing, and raised it higher than it had ever been in that university. He continued at Aberdeen discharging the duties of his office, and had the happiness to perceive his usefulness increasing, and his popularity as a public professor greatly ex- tended. In the vacations of 1717 and 1719, he went to London, with the view of extending his information, and of being introduced to the illustrious men there. As mathematical knowledge was never in so great request, nor its professors so much honoured at any period in the history of Britain, his fame had already gone before him ; but, independent of that, he was furnished with letters of introduction from professor Simpson and Dr Clark, to the first philo- sophers of that or any other age. It was this first journey to London that laid the foundation of his subsequent fortunes in life. Besides Dr Hoadly, then bishop of Bangor, Dr Samuel Clark, and several other eminent men, he became acquainted with Sir Isaac Newton, who not only patronized him as a young man of genius, and possessed of a singular turn of mind for mathematical investiga- tion, but seems to have formed for him a stronger degree of attachment than he was ever known to exhibit towards any one of the numerous candidates for his patronage. This kind preference, Mr Maclaurin ever after considered the greatest honour and happiness of his life. Long before he meditated his jour- ney to London, he was an enthusiastic admirer of the philosophy of Newton, and of the almost superhuman genius of its inventor. To him he therefore submitted his treatise on the " Power of Gravity," which he brought with him, in manuscript, to London, and, on its receiving the sanction of him who had done more to extend the boundaries of mathematical science than almost all man- kind, Mr Maclaurin's triumph was complete. He was admitted a member of the Royal Society when only twenty-one years of age, and two of his papers were, about the same time, inserted in the transactions of that learned body, and his book, entitled Geometria Organica, was published with the approbation of their president. In his second journey, he became acquainted with Martin Folks, Esq., who succeeded Sir Isaac Newton as president of the Royal Society, and with whom he thenceforth cultivated a most entire and unreserved friend- ship. This great patron of scientific men frequently corresponded with him, communicating to him all his views and improvements in the sciences, and-en- couraging him to proceed in his philosophical studies.

In 1722, lord Pol war th, ambassador from the court of St James's to the con- gress of Cambray, had been for some time looking out for a proper person to accompany his son, Mr Hume, on his travels. His lordship was fond of litera- ture and the company of literary men ; he had frequent opportunities of ob- serving Mr Maclaurin's behaviour, who at this time, from his consummate abilities, was admitted into the highest circles of society in London. His lord- ship being deeply prepossessed in favour of our youthful philosopher, engaged