CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 3107
TitlePapers of Professor Thomas Gordon, Professor Robert Eden Scott and their associates including discourses and questions of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society
Date18th century-19th century
Extent3 archive boxes: 0.99 linear metres
Creator NameGordon; Thomas (1714-1797); professor of Greek, King's College, Aberdeen
Scott; Robert Eden (1770-1811); professor of moral philosophy, King's College, Aberdeen
Administrative HistoryAberdeen Philosophical Society (1758 - 1773) fostered some of the most significant works of the Scottish Enlightenment, including Thomas Reid's An Inquiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense (1764), and George Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric (1776) ( Minutes of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, 1758-1773 , ed. by Lewis H. Ulman, Aberdeen University Studies, 158, (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990)). Its 6 founding members were George Campbell (1719 - 1796), Professor of Divinity and Principal, Marischal College; John Gregory (1724 - 1773), Professor of Philosophy, King's College, later Physician; Thomas Reid (1710 - 1796), Regent, King's College, later Professor of Moral Philosophy, Glasgow; David Skene (1731 - 1770), physician; John Stewart (c 1708 - 1766), Professor of Mathematics, Marischal College; and Robert Trail (1720 - 1775), Professor of Oriental Languages, later Professor of Divinity, Glasgow; and during its lifetime a further 9 elected members were invited to join the group. These were John Farquhar (1732 - 1768), Scottish church minister; Alexander Gerard (1728 - 1795), Professor of Logic and Moral Philosophy, Marischal College, later Professor of Divinity, King's College; Thomas Gordon (1714 - 1797), Professor of Humanity, King's College; John Ross (c 1730 - c 1800), Professor of Hebrew, King's College; James Beattie (1735 - 1803), Professor of Philosophy and Logic, Marischal College, philosopher, and poet; George Skene (1742 - 1803), Professor of Natural Philosophy, later Professor of Civil and Natural History, Marischal College, and physician; William Ogilvie (1736 - 1819), Professor of Philosophy, later Professor of Humanity, King's College; James Dunbar (1742 - 1798), Regent, King's College; William Trail (1746 - 1831), Professor of Mathematics, Marischal College, later minister of the Church of Ireland.

For further details about the society, its activities and members, see Minutes of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, 1758-1773 , ed. by Lewis H. Ulman, Aberdeen University: Studies, 158 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990

Thomas Gordon was born in 1714, the son of George Gordon, professor of Hebrew at King’s College, Aberdeen, from 1693 to 1730. Thomas Gordon graduated MA there in 1731 and held various university appointments from 1734 until his death in 1797, as Humanist, Regent, and finally Professor of Greek. He was the grandson of George Gordon, Principal of the College in 1684. His great-uncle Patrick Gordon was Professor of Hebrew from 1674 to 1693. Thomas Gordon was also the grandfather (by his eldest child, Elizabeth) of Robert Eden Scott, who held a number of posts at King’s College. His collections of manuscripts relating to staff and students formed a valuable source of information for the compilation of the works on the history of the universities of Aberdeen and their alumni edited by P. J. Anderson (c 1850-1926).

Robert Eden Scott was born in 1770 in Old Aberdeen, into a family long connected with King’s College, Aberdeen, and graduated with an MA from the College in 1785. He was appointed regent in 1788 and entered an arrangement whereby he held the chairs of Natural Philosophy, Greek, Mathematics and Moral Philosophy interchangeably with other professors. In 1800 he became Professor of Moral Philosophy, adhering to the Scottish school and producing several writings on the subject, until his death in 1811.
Custodial HistoryThe papers came to light in 1982 in a deed box of miscellaneous material from King's College. The records relating to the University were extracted and joined the main University archive collections. It appears that the papers of Gordon had survived in the possession of his grandson Robert Eden Scott who preserved them together with his own personal and academic papers. The immediate explanation for these packages probably lies in the researches of WL Davidson, Professor of Logic (1895-1926), whose notes remain with the bundles and who completed research on the Aberdeen Philosophical Society. It is probable that the material was also at some point part of a larger collection including the Gordon and Scott material already deposited in the archives.

For more information see a survey report by Dorothy Johnston in 'Northern Scotland', vol 5, number 2, 1983.
SourceTransferred from the Crown Tower store in 1982.
DescriptionDiscourses presented to the Aberdeen Philosophical Society
Questions discussed by the Aberdeen Philosophical Society
Discources and questions of Thomas Gordon
Papers of Thomas Gordon, unrelated to Aberdeen Philosophical Society
Letters and papers of Robert Eden Scott
Misc. academic papers of uncertain provenance, including pieces by Gordon and Scott
Misc. letters and papers of uncertain provenance

Thomas Gordon was one of the most active members of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, and served as secretary from 1761 - 1764 and again from 1767 - 1771. In addition to his own contributions, and his official duties to the Society, he also made copies of other members' discourses and abstracts. His personal papers contain copies of 22 discourses and 8 abstracts composed by other members, in addition to copies of all 9 of his own discourses and 9 of his abstracts.
ArrangementThe original booklets are sometimes paginated, sometimes foliated, and these figures are supplied here, to identify the different sections.
Access StatusOpen
Related MaterialPersonal papers for most members of the Society are deposited in Special Libraries and Archives. The papers of Thomas Gordon, David Skene, and Thomas Reid contain material which relates directly to the Society; those of other members does not tend do so. Separate collection level descriptions are available for each on the Archives Hub.

Papers of David Skene (GB 231 MS 0037; GB 231 MS 0475; GB 231 MS 0480; GB 231 MS 0540). Skene's personal papers reflect his very varied research interests, as physician, natural historian, geologist, and philosopher. Like Thomas Gordon, he kept detailed records of the Society's activities, including drafts of discourses and abstracts of conversations on questions posed. Of his papers, GB 231 MS 0540 relates most directly to the Society and its activities, though most other papers in his collections contain complementary material.

Papers of Thomas Reid (GB 231 MS 2131; GB 231 MS 3061). These 2 deposits represent virtually all of Reid's known, surviving manuscripts. They contain a great deal of material - both published and unpublished - pertaining to Reid, the Philosophy of Common Sense, and the Aberdeen School , including discourses, abstracts and notes relating to the Aberdeen Philosophical Society.

Records of Aberdeen Philosophical Society (1840 - 1939), 1840-1939 (GB 231 MS 0597/ 1-6) (6 volumes). A second Philosophical Society was established in Aberdeen in 1840. It has no relationship to the 18th century society described here, though it may have shared similar objectives.
Publication NoteMS 3107/1-3: The Papers of Professor Thomas Gordon Relating to the First Aberdeen Philosophical Society. Northern Scotland, Volume 5, No. 2 (1983), pp.179-89.
MS 3107/4-9: The Papers of Professor Thomas Gordon (d. 1797) and Professor Robert Eden Scott (1770-1811) of King's College. Northern Scotland, Volume 6, No. 1 (1984), pp.75-80.

Extensive use has been made of this collection by researchers involved in work on the Scottish Enlightenment and/ or main contributors to the movement. Details of associated publications may be found by reference to Minutes of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, 1758-1773 ed. by Lewis H. Ulman, Aberdeen University Studies, 158 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990), which is itself, one of the principal works based on these papers. See also, the University Library catalogue
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