Colin Maclaurin

The Scottish mathematician Colin Maclaurin, was born in Glendaruel in 1698. His father John was the Minister. Orphaned by the time he was 9, he went to live with his uncle, the Reverend Daniel Maclaurin, minister of Kilfinan. Two years later, aged 11, he went to Glasgow University, where he began to develop his interest in mathematics. He read Euclid, and by the age of 14 had been awarded his Masters degree, for his work On the Power of Gravity, which built on the work of Newton, who was later to become a firm friend. Maclaurin’s family had intended that he follow tradition and enter the Church, but Maclaurin was unhappy with the state of the Church at the time, and so returned to live with his uncle. He applied for a post in mathematics and after ten days of gruelling examinations competing against other talented candidates, Maclaurin was appointed professor at Marischal College in Aberdeen University in 1717, aged 19. He would hold the record as the world’s youngest professor until March 2008. He met Newton on a visit to the Royal Society in London in 1719, and was elected a Fellow the same year. Nominated by Newton (who even offered to fund him until he succeeded his predecessor), Maclaurin was appointed the deputy to the mathematics professor at the University of Edinburgh in 1725. He settled in Edinburgh, married, and founded the Medical Society of Edinburgh (which became the Royal Society of Edinburgh many years later). Maclaurin did not devote his entire life to mathematics. He set up an insurance society that helped widows and children of Scottish Ministers and professors. In 1733, Maclaurin married Anne Stewart, the daughter of Walter Stewart. He also worked hard to build Edinburgh’s fortifications when the Jacobites attacked in the Rebellion of 1745, but fled to Newcastle when the city fell. He returned to Edinburgh when the Jacobites marched on England, but his health had suffered from the bad weather and a fall from his horse – he died a year later. He is buried at Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh.