Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/77

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


according to the three different hypotheses of Ptolemy, Copernicus, nnd Tycho Brahe."

The illustrious individual last mentioned, had likewise studied at the uni- versity of Rostock : it is probable that the pursuits of the two philosophers brought them into contact, and the author of the Biography of Liddel, considers it sufficiently established, that they were intimate with each other in after life, and that the Danish philosopher frequently visited the subject of our memoir in his journeys to Scotland. There is, however, a shadow of authority for suppos- ing 2 that Liddel held the higher rank of an opponent of Tycho Brahe, and maintained a disputation with him on equal terms. The eccentric Sir Thomas Urquhart, who, whatever information he may have chosen to receive on the subject, certainly was enabled to have made himself master of the true state ot the circumstances which he related, says, " These mathematical blades put me in mind of that Dr Liddel, who for his profoundness in those sciences of sensi- ble immaterial objects, was every where much renowned, especially at Frank- fort de Main, Frankfort on the Oder, and Heidelberg, where he was almost as well known as the monstrous bacchanalian tun that stood there in his time. He was an eminent professor of mathematics, a disciple of the most excellent as- tronomer Tycho Brahe, and condisciple of that worthy Longomontanus : yet in imitation of Aristotle, (whose doctrine with great proficiency he had imbued,) he esteemed more of truth than either of Socrates or Plato ; when the new star began to appear in the constellation of Cassiopaeia, there was concerning it such an intershocking of opinions betwixt Tycho Brahe and Dr Liddel, evulged in print to the open view of the world, that the understanding reader could not but have commended both for all ; and yet (in giving each his due) praised Tycho Brahe most for astronomy, and Liddel for his knowledge above him in all the other parts of philosophy." It is not improbable that the imaginative author of the Jewel may have thought proper, without much inquiry, to bestow on a person born in his own near neighbourhood, the merit of a conflict in which a Scots- man, whose name may not have then been known, was engaged ; at the same time adding to the lustre of the achievements of his countryman. The author of the Life of Dr Liddel observes, " Upon what authority this circumstance is founded cannot be discovered, for there is no mention of it in either of the very full accounts of the life and writings of Tycho Brahe, by Gassendi and Mon- tucla, nor in a large volume written by Tycho himself, concerning this new star ; although he there animadverts at great length upon the opinions of many other astronomers, who had also treated of it. Nor could any such controversy have possibly happened at the time mentioned by Sir Thomas Urquhart, for the new star there spoken of was observed by Tycho Brahe in 1572, and the ac- count of it published in 1573, when Dr Liddel was only twelve years of age. There is indeed in the volume of Astronomical epistles of Tycho Brahe, a long letter from him to his friend Rothmannus, chiefly filled with severe reflections upon the publications of a certain Scotsman against his account of the comet of 1577, not of the new star in Cassiopasia ; but it appears from Gassendi that this Scottish writer was Dr Craig, formerly mentioned, and not Dr Liddel." When we recollect that Liddel audiCraig, as intimate literary associates, may have imbibed the same theories, and similar methods of stating them, this last circumstance approaches a solution of the difficulty.

In the university of Rostock Liddel received the degree of master of philoso- phy, and in 1590, he left it to return to Frankfort, at the request of two young Livonians of rank, to whom it is probatle he acted as tutor. He did not long remain at Frankfort on his second visit, having heard of the rising fame of the " On the authority of Cnselius's dedication to Craig, and the funeral oration on Liddel.