Gregory, David

, elder brother of the preceding, was born in 1627 or 1628, and although he possessed all the genius of the other branches of his family, was educated by his father for trade, and served an apprenticeship to a mercantile house in Holland. Having a stronger passion, however, for knowledge than for money, he abandoned trade in 1655, and returning to his own country, he succeeded, upn the death of an elder brorher, to the estate of Kinarclie, situated about forty miles north of Aberdeen, where he lived many years, and where thirty-two children were born to him by two wives. Of these, three sons made | a conspicuous figure in the republic of letters, being all professors of mathematics at the same time in three of the British universities, viz. David at Oxford, James at Edinburgh, and Charles at St. Andrew’s.

Mr. Gregory, the subject of this memoir, while he lived at Kinardie, was a jest among the neighbouring gentlemen for his ignorance of what was doing about his own farm, but an oracle in matters of learning and philosophy, and particularly in medicine, which he had studied for his amusement, and began to practise among his poor neighbours. He acquired such a reputation in that science, that he was employed by the nobility and gentlemen of that county, but took no fees. His hours of study were singular. Being much occupied through the day with those who applied to him as a physician, he went early to bed, rose about two or three in the morning, and, after applying to his studies for some hours, went to bed again, and slept an hour or two before breakfast. He was the first man in that country who had a barometer; and having paid great attention to the changes in it, and the corresponding changes in the weather, he was once in danger of being tried by the presbytery for witchcraft or conjuration. A deputation of that body waited upon him to inquire into the ground of certain reports that had come to their ears; but, affording them ample satisfaction, a prosecution was prevented.

About the beginning of the last century, he removed with his family to Aberdeen, and in the time of queen Anne’s wars employed his thoughts upon an improvement in artillery, in order to make the shot of great guns more destructive to the enemy, and executed a model of the engine he had contrived. The late Dr. Reid, in his additions to the lives of the Gregorys, published in Hutton’s Dictionary, informs us that he conversed with a clockmaker at Aberdeen, who had been employed in making this model; but having made many different pieces by direction without knowing their intention, or how they were to be put together, he could give no account of the whole. After making some experiments with this model, which satisfied him, Mr. Gregory was so sanguine in the hope of being useful to the allies in the war against France, that he set about preparing a field equipage with a view to make a campaign in Flanders, and in the mean time sent his model to his son the Savilian professor, the subject of our next | article, that he might have his, and sir Isaac Newton’s opinion of it. His son shewed it to Newton without letting him know that his own father was the inventor of it. Sir Isaac was much displeased with it, saying, that if it had tended as much to the preservation of mankind, as to their destruction, the inventor would have deserved a great reward: but, as it was contrived solely for destruction, and would soon be known by the enemy, he rather deserved to be punished, and urged the professor very strongly to destroy it, and if possible, to suppress the invention. It is probable the professor followed this advice, as he died soon after, and the model was never found. Sir Isaac’s objection, however, appears rather to be fastidious, and might apply with equal force to any improvement in muskeis, &c. or to gunpowder itself. When the rebellion broke out in 1715, Mr. Gregory went a second time to Holland, and returned when it was over to Aberdeen, where he died about 1720, aged ninety-three, leaving behind him a history of his own time and country, which was never published. One of his daughters was mother to the late celebrated Dr. Thomas Reid of Glasgow, by whom the above particulars were first communicated. 1

1 Hutton’s Dict. Gleig’s Supplement to the Eneycl. Britannica.