Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/165

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COLIN MACLAURIN. 535


Isaac's time. When the first draught of that work was sent up to London it was shown to some eminent judges, and met with their highest approbation. Among the rest Dr Rundle, afterwards bishop of Derry, was so pleased with the design that he mentioned it as particularly worthy of the Queen's no- tice, who, after attentively perusing it, was so highly gratified that she expressed a desire to see it published ; but Mr Conduitt's death having prevented the exe- cution of his part of the proposed work, Mr Maclaurin's manuscript was re- turned to him. To this he afterwards added the more recent proofs and exam- ples given by himself and others on the subjects treated by Sir Isaac, and left it in the state in which it now appears. Mr Maclaurin continued to live sin- gle till the year 1733, when, having a mind equally formed for the social endearments of refined society as those of the profoundest philosophy, he mar- ried Anne, daughter of Mr Walter Stewart, solicitor-general for Scotland to George the first, by whom he had seven children.

Dr Buckley, bishop of Cloyne, having taken occasion, from some disputes that had arisen concerning the grounds of the fluxionary method, in a treatise, en- titled the Analyst, published in 1734, to explode the method itself, and at the same time to charge mathematicians in general with infidelity in religion, Mr Maclaurin entered the lists of disputation with him, eager to defend his favour- ite study and repel an accusation in which he was most unjustly included. He commenced his reply to the bishop's book ; but as he entered more deeply into the subject, so many discoveries, so many new theories and problems oc- curred to him, that, instead of a vindicatory pamphlet, his work, when finished, presented a complete system of fluxions, with their application to the most con- siderable problems in geometry and natural philosophy. This work was pub- lished in Edinburgh in 1742, in two volumes quarto, in which we are at a loss what most to admire his solid, unexceptionable demonstrations of the grounds of the method itself, or its application to such a variety of curious and useful problems. A society had for many years subsisted in Edinburgh, for the ad- vancement of medical knowledge ; Mr Maclaurin, on reviewing their plan of proceedings, and not thinking it sufficiently extensive, proposed to take in all parts of physics, together with the antiquities of the country. This was readily agreed to, and Mr Maclaurin's influence engaged several noblemen and gentle- men of the first rank and character, to join themselves for that purpose to the members of the former society. The earl of Morton did them the honour to accept of the office of president. Dr Plummer, professor of chemistry, and Mr Maclaurin, were appointed secretaries ; and several gentlemen of distinction, English and foreigners, desired to be admitted members. At the monthly meetings of the society, Mr Maclaurin generally read some treatise of his own, or communicated the contents of his letters from foreign parts; by which means the society were informed of every new discovery or improvement in the sciences. Several of the papers read before this society, are printed in the 5th and 6th volumes of the Medical Essays ; some of them are also published in the Philosophical Transactions; and Mr Maclaurin had occasion to insert a great many more in his Treatise of Fluxions, and in his account of Sir Isaac Newton's philosophy. He was the first who proposed the building of an astrono- mical observatory, and a convenient school for experiments, in the university of Edinburgh, of which he drew an elegant and well jcontrived plan ; and, as this work was to be carried on by private subscription, he used all his influence to raise money for that purpose with so much success, that, had not the Rebellion intervened in Scotland, the work would have been speedily completed. The earl of Morton, on visiting his estates in Orkney and Shetland in 1739, wanted at the same time to settle the geography of these islands, which was very er-