Sibbald, Sir Robert

, an eminent physician, naturalist, and antiquary, was a descendant of the Sibbalds of Balgonie, an ancient family in Fifeshire, Scotland. He received his education in philosophy and the languages at the university of Edinburgh, and afterwards studied medicine at Leyden, where, on taking his doctor’s degree in 1661, he published his inaugural dissertation “De variis tabis speciebus.” Soon after he returned home, and fixed his residence at Edinburgh; but for the benefit of study, often retired to a rural retreat in the neighbourhood, and cultivated, with much attention, many rare and exotic plants. His reputation obtained for him the appointment of natural historian, geographer, and physician, to Charles II. and he received the royal command to compose a general description of the whole kingdom, and a particular history of the different counties of Scotland. The “History of Fife,” however, is the only part of this plan which he executed. This was at first sold separately, but became very scarce; a new edition was published at Cupar-Fife in 1803, In 1681, when the royal college of physicians was incorporated, he was one of the original fellows. In 1684 he published his principal work, “Scotia Illustrata, sive Prodromus historian naturalis, &c.” folio, reprinted in 1696. In this volume, which, he tells us, was the work of twenty years, one part is appropriated to 'the indigenous plants of Scotland, and contains observations on the medicinal and (Economical uses. A few rare species make their first appearance in this book, particularly that which Linnreus named Sibbaldia, after the author. Having thrown out some strictures on the mathematical principles of physic, for which the learned Dr. Pitcairn was a strenuous advocate, the latter wrote a severe satire on this work, entitled “De legibus historian naturalis,” Edit). 1696; but it contains no-, thing solid, and was thought by some to have been the result of party dislike, as Dr. Sibbald had embraced the Roman catholic religion under James II. in 1686, and afterwards recanted, and Pitcairn was a zealous adherent of the exiled family, although he cared little about religion of any kind. Sir Robert Sibbald is supposed to have died about the year 1712.

We have hitherto considered sir Robert as a physician and naturalist, but his reputation is more securely founded on his having been the first who illustrated the antiquities of his native country, in various learned essays, the titles | of which it is unnecessary to give, as the whole were printed in “A collection of several treatises in folio, concerning Scotland as it was of old, and also in later times. By sir Robert Sibbald, M. D.” Edin. 1739. They were, however, at that time sold separately, or bound together. Of all Mr. Gough gives a particular account, and also of his Mss* now in the Advocates’ library. Sir Robert likewise published a piece entitled “The liberty and independency of the kingdom and church of Scotland asserted, from ancient records in three parts,1701, 4to, now very rarely to be met with and “De Gestis Gul. Valise,” Edin. 1705, 8vo. A catalogue of his library was printed at Edinburgh, 1722, in 8vo. 1

1

Pulteney’s Botany. Cough’s Topography, vol. II. See an account of his conversion, —Boswell’s Life of Johnson.