Jul 252016
 

Mr Wood's Fossils5 Cowgatehead, Edinburgh EH1 1JY

This shop was established in 1987 by the professional fossil hunter Stanley Wood, who, although he never held an academic post, made some important palaeontological discoveries. Perhaps his most significant finds were a series of fossil tetrapods, the ancestors of all terrestrial vertebrates including humans, in East Kirkton Quarry in West Lothian. These helped to fill Romer’s Gap, a mysterious era from around 360 to 345 million years ago in the Lower Carboniferous period from which tetrapod fossils had previously been thought absent. In addition to fossils, Mr Wood’s also stocks meteorites, rocks fallen to the Earth from Outer Space, of which mineral composition and structure are of significant interest to astronomers studying the formation of our solar system and its planets and asteroids.

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Jul 252016
 

Memorial to John Playfair, Calton Hill.38 Calton Hill, Edinburgh, EH7 5AA

Mathematician, physicist and geologist, John Playfair is perhaps best known as James Hutton’s most influential disciple. His Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802) probably did more to popularise his theory than Hutton’s own notoriously impenetrable writings.  In his career he was consecutively professor of mathematics and professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. As first president of Edinburgh Astronomical Institution he enthusiastically supported the construction of Edinburgh’s observatory on Calton Hill, which his monument stands beside, but sadly died before its completion.

 

Portrait of John Playfair (1748-1819) by Henry Raeburn.

Portrait of John Playfair (1748-1819) by Henry Raeburn.

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Apr 172016
 

Greyfriars Cemetery, Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh EH1 2QQ

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!).

 

Colin Maclaurin (1698–1746).

Colin Maclaurin (1698–1746).

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Apr 172016
 

22-26 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PQ

The Royal Society of Edinburgh

The Royal Society of Edinburgh was set up in imitation of the Royal Society of London in 1783. It has been at its present location since 1909, having originally met in the college library of the University of Edinburgh. Its fellows have included such illustrious names as John Clerk Maxwell, Roderick Murchison, James Watt and Sir Walter Scott, who was its third president. Although originally scientific in orientation, it now accepts many famous names from the arts and humanities. The Society still continues its work of promoting original research in Scotland today.

Free public access to the foyer. Tours of the rest of the building may sometimes be available on request at the reception, depending on the availability of staff.

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Apr 172016
 

38 Calton Hill, Edinburgh, EH7 5AA

The City Observatory on Calton Hill.

 

An observatory on Calton Hill was first proposed by Colin Maclaurin, Edinburgh’s professor of mathematics, in 1736. However, these plans came to nothing until Thomas Short brought a 12-foot reflecting telescope to the city in 1776, with the intention of opening a public observatory as a commercial enterprise. The university helped him with the cost of building the observatory on condition it was open to students. Short’s observatory became the property of the city on his death, but his daughter Maria Theresa ran her own observatory on Calton Hill before moving to a new site on Castlehill in 1850. Today, the site is run by the Collective, a centre for contemporary art.

 

The Gothic Tower at the Edinburgh City Observatory on Calton Hill, 1792.

The Gothic Tower at the Edinburgh City Observatory on Calton Hill, 1792.

The Playfair Building at the Edinburgh City Observatory on Calton Hill, 1824.

The Playfair Building at the Edinburgh City Observatory on Calton Hill, 1824.

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