Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/298

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92 REV. ALEXANDER NICOLL, D.C.L.

which signifies the ratios or proportions of numbers. He afterwards fixed upon the progression, 1, 10, 100, 1000, &c., or that which results from continued multiplication by 10, and which is the same according to which the present tables are constructed. This improvement, which possesses many advantages, had suggested itself about the same time to the learned Henry Briggs, then professor of geometry in Gresham college, one of the persons who had the merit of first appreciating the value of Napier's invention, and who certainly did more than any other to spread the knowledge of it, and also to contribute to its perfection." 1

The invention was very soon known over all Europe, and was everywhere hailed with admiration by men of science. Napier followed it up, in 1617, by publishing a small treatise, giving an account of a method of performing the operations of multiplication and division, by means of a number of small rods. These materials for calculation have maintained their place in science, and are known by the appellation of Napier's Bones.

In 1608, Napier succeeded his father, when he had a contest with his brothers and sisters, on account of some settlements made to his prejudice by his father, in breach of a promise made in 1586, in presence of some friends of the family, not to sell, wadset, or dispose, from his son John, the lands of Over Merchiston, or any part thereof. The family disputes were probably accommodated before June 9, 1613, on which day John Napier was served and returned heir of his father in the lands of Over Merchiston.

This illustrious man did not long enjoy the inheritance which had fallen to him so unusually late in life. He died, April 3, 1617, at Merchiston castle, and was buried in the church of St Giles, on the eastern side of its southern entrance, where is still to be seen a stone tablet, exposed to the street, and bearing the following inscription : " Sep. familiae Naperoru. interius hie situm est."

Napier was twice married; first, in 1571, to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Stirling of Keir, by whom he had a son and a daughter ; secondly, to Agnes, daughter of James Chisholm of Cromlix, by whom lie had ten children. His eldest son, Archibald, who succeeded him, was raised to the rank of a baron by Charles I., in 1627, under the title of lord Napier, which is still borne by his descendants. A very elaborate life of him was published in 1835, (Blackwood, Edinburgh).

NICOLL, (The Rev.) ALEXANDER, D. C. L., canon of Christchurch, and regius professor of Hebrew in the university of Oxford, was the youngest son of John Nicoll, at Monymusk, in Aberdeenshire, where he was born, April 3, 1793. The subject of this memoir was carefully reared by his parent in the principles of the Scottish episcopal church ; and, while little more than four years of age, was placed at a private school, conducted by a Mr Sivewright, where he re- ceived the first rudiments of learning. Two years afterwards, he was put to the parish school, then and still taught by Mr Duff, who grounded him in classical literature. His behaviour at school was that of a modest, assiduous student, and nothing but a reprimand ever disturbed the composure which was natural to him. At this school, his attainments were such as to attract the notice of the clergymen of the presbytery, in the course of their professional visitations. In 1805, lie removed to the grammar school of Aberdeen, at which city, his_ elder brother, Mr "Lewis Nicoll, advocate, was able to take charge of his personal conduct. At the commencement of the winter session of. the same year, he became a candidate for a bursary at the Marischal college, and obtained one of

,!.^!| le alwve account of logarithms, which has the advantage of being very simple and in- elligible, is extracted from the Library of Entertaining Knowledge.