Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/336

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130 JOHN PLAYFAIR.


ed as a medical practitioner. His " Solutio problemati," &c., published soon after he had first commenced business in Edinburgh, had gained him much reputation as a learned man, as well as a skilful physician, and he still more strongly established his claims to the former character by a 4to work, entitled, " Archibald! Pitcarnii Dissertationes Medicae," which was published at Rotter- dam in 1701, and dedicated to his friend Bellini. Dr Pitcairne also wrote Latin poetry with very considerable elegance and taste, although Wodrow, in his Analecta, speaks of him in this capacity, as only " a sort of a poet." But he was something more than this, and had not the subjects of his muse unfortu- nately been all of but transitory interest, and therefore now nearly wholly un- intelligible, his fame as a Latin poet would have been very far from contempt- ible. Some of these poems were published in 1727, by Ruddiman, in order to meet a charge which had been made upon Scotland, that it was deficient in this department of literature.

Dr Pitcairne's chief work was published in 1718, under the title of "Elementa Medicinre Physico- Mathematics," consisting of his lectures at Leyden. He was considered to be the first physician of his time. His library is said to have been one of the best private collections of that time; it was purchased, after his death, by the Czar of Russia. In addition to his Latin verses, he was the author of a comedy called " The Assembly," which is a sarcastic and profane produc- tion ; also, " Babell, or the Assembly, a poem, 1692," both being intended to turn the proceedings of the General Assembly into ridicule. Dr Pitcairne was a Jacobite, and an Episcopalian ; and his talent for satire was often directed ngainst the Presbyterians, who accused him of being an atheist, and a scoffer and reviler of religion. Wodrow even goes the length of retaliating upon him by a serious charge as to his temperance. An atheistical pamphlet published in 1688, entitled, " Epistola Archimedis ad regem Gelonem Albse Grsecse, reperta anno serae Christianas," was ascribed to Pitcairne ; and when the Rev. Thomas Halyburton entered upon the office of professor of divinity in the uni- versity of St Andrews, in 1710, his inaugural discourse was a refutation of the arguments of this performance, and was published in 1714, under the title of " Natural Religion Insufficient, and Revealed Necessary to Man's Happiness." His verses written on Christmas Day have been referred to as a proof of Dr Pitcairne's orthodoxy, on which he had himself thrown a doubt by his profane jesting and his habitual scoffing at religious men ; and it is added, on the autho- rity of Dr Drummond, that, during his last illness, he evinced just apprehensions of God and religion, and experienced the tranquillity of mind which can arise from no other source. As a man of science, he was far in advance of the age in which he lived ; and the zeal with which he propagated Hervey's beautiful discovery of the circulation of the blood, is a proof of liberality of feeling which was by no means common at that period among medical men, by whom the doctrine of the circulation was long treated as a heresy in science, and its dis- coverer nearly persecuted out of the profession. That his disposition was gene- rous and friendly in a remarkable degree, is beyond doubt, and the reader may rind a striking instance of it in the life of Ruddiman.

Dr Pitcairne died in Edinburgh on the 20th of October, 1713, in the 61st year of his age, and was interred in the Greyfriars' church-yard.

PLAYFAIR, JOHN, an eminent natural philosopher and mathematician, was the eldest son of James Playfair, minister of Benvie, in Forfarshire, where he was born on the 10th of March, 1748. He was educated at home until he reached the age of fourteen, when he was sent to the university of St Andrews, where it was intended that he should study for the Scottish church. The pre- cocity of talent exhibited by great men, generally so ill authenticated, has been