Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/163

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COLIN MACLAURIX. 533


him as companion and tutor to his son. Maclaurin having procured a proper person to fill his place for a time at the college of Aberdeen, and feeling a strong 1 desire to gratify his curiosity by visiting foreign countries, he according- ly with his friend and scholar set out for France, and proceeded at once to the capital, where they took up their abode. After remaining a short time at Paris, they visited several of the chief towns in France, and finally fixed upon Lorraine for their residence. Here they had the advantage of a good academy, besides the introduction to one of the most polite courts in Europe. Mr Mac- laurin had now an opportunity of improving that easy and genteel address which was at all times natural to him, and with his graceful person and great erudition, he excited the admiration, and gained the esteem ofjthe most distin- guished persons of both sexes. Here he wrote his essay on the percussion of bodies, which gained the prize of the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1724. The substance of this tract is inserted in his Treatise of Fluxions.

On leaving Lorraine with his pupil on a tour through the southern provinces of France, and arriving at Montpelier, Mr Hume was seized with a fever which quickly terminated his life. This dreadful calamity affected Mr Maclaurin in the deepest manner, and overwhelmed him with grief. In some letters written on that melancholy occasion, he seemed almost inconsolable for the loss of his pupil, companion, and friend, and his sympathy with a family to which he owed great obligations, and which had suffered an irreparable loss in the death of this hopeful young nobleman, rendered him unhappy beyond expression. Travelling and all other things being now distasteful, he set out immediately on his return to his profession at Aberdeen.

Having by this time justly earned the distinction of one of the first men of his country, the curators of the university of Edinburgh were desirous of en- gaging him to supply the place of Mr James (Gregory, whose age and infirmities had rendered him incapable of teaching ; but several difficulties retarded the design for some time. A gentleman eminent for . mathematical abilities, but whose name is now forgotten, had succeeded in gaining over some of the patrons, who promised him their interest for the appointment, until a recom- mendatory letter from Sir Isaac Newton completely turned the balance in Mr Maclaurin's favour. Sir Isaac first addressed Mr Maclaurin, with allowance to show it to the patrons of the university, and expresses himself as follows : " I am very glad to hear that you have a prospect of being joined to Mr James Gregory in the professorship of mathematics at Edinburgh, not only because you are my friend, but principally because of your abilities, you being acquainted as well with the new improvements of mathematics as with the former state of those sciences ; I heartily wish you good success, and shall be very glad of hearing of your being elected ; I am, with all sincerity, your faithful friend, and most humble servant." In a second letter to the lord provost of Edin- burgh, which Mr Maclaurin knew nothing of till some years after Sir Isaac's death, he thus writes : " I am glad to understand that Mr Maclaurin is in good repute amongst you for his skill in mathematics, for I think he deserves it very well, and to satisfy you that I do not flatter him, and also to encourage him to accept the place of assisting Mr Gregory, in order to succeed him, I am ready (if you please to give me leave,) to contribute twenty pounds per annum towards a provision for him till Mr Gregory's place becomes void, if I live so long, and I will pay it to his order in London." The town council, however, with be- coming pride, respectfully declined this generous offer, and the business was finally arranged that Mr Gregory was to retain his salary during life ; his family in case of their father's death were secured in it for seven years from the date of Mr Maclaurin's being inducted as joint professor, who was promised fifty