Jacobitism and Enlightenment
If you look up John Robison in the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB), the first thing you’ll find out about him is that he was “a scientific writer (described by Sir James Mackintosh as ‘one of the greatest mathematical philosophers of his age’).” He was born in Boghall, Stirlingshire, in 1739, educated in Glasgow, and, in 1773, became professor of natural philosophy at Edinburgh University. In addition, as a tutor to the son of Admiral Knowles, a midshipman for General Wolfe, he traveled to Quebec and “was employed in making surveys of the St. Lawrence and adjacent country.” In 1762 he was appointed by the board of longitude and went to Jamaica “on a trial voyage, to take charge of the chronometer completed by John Harrison the horologist.” He would also visit Russia, again with admiral Knowles, where he “acted as inspector-general to the corps.” He contributed articles on seamanship, the telescope, optics, waterworks, resistance of fluids, electricity, magnetism, music, and other subjects to the Encyclopedia Britannica; he was elected general secretary to the Royal Society of Edinburgh upon its founding in 1783; he “anticipated Mayer in the important electrical discovery that the law of force is very nearly or exactly in inverse square”; and, perhaps most impressively, he gave James Watt the idea for the steam engine.
KeywordsEurope Steam Income Coherence Assimilation
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