Apr 172016

Greyfriars Cemetery, Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh EH1 2QQ

Tomb of Colin Maclaurin

Tomb of Colin Maclaurin

Colin Maclaurin was an important figure of the first years of the Scottish Enlightenment.  He was an early champion of Newtonianism, who was given the chair of mathematics at the University of Edinburgh in 1725 at Isaac Newton’s own recommendation. Maclaurin and a number of like-minded colleagues made Edinburgh into what was probably the most important centre for the dissemination of Newtonian ideas in Britain after the death of Newton himself. He famously defended Newton’s calculus against the philosophical objections of Bishop Berkeley. MacLaurin was also one of the early proponents of Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, having campaigned for building an astronomical observatory, as well as raising funds for this project (totalling £285 in 1748!).

Portrait of Colin Maclaurin

Colin Maclaurin (1698–1746)

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  2 Responses to “Grave of Colin Maclaurin”

  1. […] This building at the University of Edinburgh Kings Buildings science campus honours the astronomer and historian of science Mary Brück (1925-2008), who graduated with a PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 1950. She returned in 1962 with the appointment of her husband, Hermann Brück, to the post of the Astronomer Royal for Scotland at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. She carried out research into stars, the gas and dust between stars and the Magellanic Clouds, while also doing historical research on women in astronomy and the history of astronomy in Scotland and her native Ireland. She published articles in several different journals and collaborated with her husband on a biography of the 19th-century Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Charles Piazzi Smyth. In 2018, the Mary Brück building was opened on Colin MacLaurin Road, itself dedicated to an 18th century champion of Astronomy in Edinburgh (whose memorial is visited as stop number 13 of this tour). […]

  2. […] Thomas Henderson (1798-1844) became the first Astronomer Royal for Scotland in 1834. He was also appointed Regius Professor of Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh and worked at the nearby Calton Hill Observatory until his death. His scientific achievements include the calculation of the parallax of a fixed star (the angle describing the difference in the position of a star on the night sky as measured six months apart), leading him to be the first person to measure the distance to Alpha Centauri, one of a group of nearest stars to the Sun. Unfortunately, delaying the publication of his results led to German astronomer Friedrich Bessel and Russian astronomer Friedrich Struve receiving credit for first measuring stellar parallaxes. Throughout his time in Edinburgh, he lived at 1 Hillside Crescent and is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard (very near the memorial in stop number 13 on this tour). […]

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