Apr 192016

555  Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2ND

Old Edinburgh cistern

This ornate drinking fountain marks the site on Castle Hill where the mathematician George Sinclair constructed a cistern to supply water to the city of Edinburgh in around 1675. The original reservoir was demolished to make way for a new, larger one in 1849. Sinclair was professor of Mathematics at the University of Glasgow from 1654 to 1666.  In 1655 he made some very early descents in a diving bell off the Isle of Mull. He was not only a leading mathematician and engineer, but also an expert on demonology and author of Satan’s Invisible Works Discovered (c.1685).

Nineteenth-century drinking fountain on the site of the old Edinburgh cistern.

Nineteenth-century drinking fountain on the site of the old Edinburgh cistern.


High Street cistern, 1675

The one surviving wellhead on the High Street, originally connected to Sinclair’s Castlehill cistern. It was designed by Sir William Bruce to provide water to the people of the Old Town and built in around 1675.

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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