CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 2206/3
Alt Ref No6 (8); 7 (9); 8 (10); 9 (11); 48/D (50/D)
TitleGregory family: Papers of David Gregory (1659 - 1708), mathematician and astronomer
Date1692 - 1740
Extent6 items
Creator NameGregory, David (1659 – 1708), Savilian Professor of astronomy at the University of Oxford
Administrative HistoryDavid Gregory (1659 – 1708) was the fourth son of David Gregory (1625 – 1720) and his first wife, Jean Walker (d. 1671). His date of birth is sometimes given as 1661. He was professor of mathematics in the University of Edinburgh between 1683 and 1688, Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford between 1688 and 1708, and enjoyed the friendship of many influential figures, including the Jacobite Archibald Pitcairne, Bishop Gilbert Burnet and Sir Isaac Newton. The last secured for him the post of Mathematics Tutor in the Royal Court in 1699, and an appointment as overseer of the Scottish Mint following the Union of Parliaments in 1707.

He studied at Marischal College in Aberdeen from 1671 to c1675 and afterwards engaged himself in the private study of his uncle James Gregory's (1638 - 1675) mathematical books and papers. Between 1679 and 1681 he travelled and studied on the continent, matriculating as a medical student at Leiden for a short period and studying in Rotterdam and Paris, where he became acquainted with the mathematics of Descartes, Hudde, and Fermat, and developed his interest in natural philosophy. The spring of 1681 was spent in London, where he attended a meeting of the Royal Society and made notes on Boyle's air-pump and Newton's reflecting telescope.

In October 1683 he was elected to the chair of mathematics at the University of Edinburgh, from which he received his MA degree a month later. His first publication, 'Exercitatio geometrica de dimensione figurarum', based on his uncle's work on infinite series, was published in 1684 and reviewed in the Royal Society's 'Philosophical Transactions'. This appears to have prompted Newton to write up his work, 'Principia', and during this period, Gregory became both increasingly familiar with and supportive of Newton's philosophy.

As an Episcopalian and an associate of the known Jacobite, Archibald Pitcairne (1652 - 1713), his position in Edinburgh became precarious following the Jacobite uprising of 1688 and in 1691 he made a successful bid for the Savilian Professorship of Astronomy in Oxford, supported by Newton and John Flamsteed. He took the degrees of M.A. and M.D. at Oxford in February 1692, when he was admitted a fellow of Balliol College: his degree theses on optics were drawn from his Edinburgh lectures on that topic. He was interested in modernising mathematics teaching, stressing the importance of practical knowledge and the relationship between astronomy and geometry, and favoured teaching in English.

Gregory was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1692 and published several mathematical papers in the 'Philosophical Transactions'. His 'Catoptricae et dioptricae sphaericae elementa', an edited version of his Edinburgh lectures on optics from the 1680s, appeared in 1695 (2nd edn, 1713; English translation, 1715; 2nd edn, ed. J. T. Desaguliers, 1735). His major work, 'Astronomiae physicae et geometricae elementa' (1702), was the first textbook on astronomy to integrate Newton's gravitational theory with standard findings and included a contibution from Newton himself. It quickly became an influential textbook and was translated into English in 1715 with second editions of both Latin and English texts appearing in 1726. His work on practical geometry, composed in Edinburgh, was published by Colin Maclaurin in 1745 as 'A Treatise of Practical Geometry' and remained a popular textbook, reaching a ninth edition in 1780.
DescriptionWarrant appointing David Gregory to direct the Officers of the Mint in Scotland, 12 July 1707; 'Lectiones mechanicae habitae in auditorio publico', 1685; Lectures given in Oxford by David Gregory, 1692 - 1697; mathematical notes, c1713; notes and lectures on Practical Geometry and National Philosophy, 1740.
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsThe records are available subject to the signed acceptance of the Department's access conditions.
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