Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


Volume 9 Page 188
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. I41 Having abandoned all thoughts of the clerical profession, LESLIEw ent over to Virginia, as tutor to the Messrs. Randolph, with whom he spent upwards of a year in America. He next proceeded to London, having introductory letters fromDr. Smith, where he proposed delivering lectures on Natural Philosophy ; but in this he was disappointed. His first literary employment was on the notes to a new edition of the Bible, then in course of publication by his friend Dr. William Thomson, with whom he had become acquainted at St Andrews. He next entered into an engagement with Murray the bookseller, to translate Buffon’s Natural History of Birds, which was published in 1793, in nine volumes octavo. He subsequently visited Holland; and, in 1796, proceeded on a tour through Switzerland and Germany with Mr. Thomas Wedgwood. On returning to Scotland, he stood candidate for a chair, first in the University of St. Andrews, and afterwards in that of Glasgow ; but was unsuccessful in both attempts. In 1799 he again went abroad, making the tour of Norway and Sweden, in company with Mr. Robert Gordon, whose friendship he had acquired at St. Andrews. I The first fruits of Mr. Leslie’s genius for physical inquiry appeared prior to the year 1800, by the production of his celebrated Dijercntial Themader, which has been described as one of the “ most beautiful and delicate instruments that inductive genius ever contrived as a help to experimental inquiry.” This was followed, in 1804, by his well known “Essay on the Natare and Propagation of Heat,” which was written while residing with his brothers at Largo, where the experimental discoveries were made for which the treatise is so much distinguished. The Essay immediately attracted the notice of the Royal Society, by the council of which the Rumford medals were unanimously awarded to him. In 1806, the Mathematical chair in the University of Edinburgh having become vacant by the translation of Professor Playfair to the chair of Natural Philosophy, Mr. Leslie came forward as a candidate. He was opposed by Dr. Thomas M‘Knight, one of the ministers of the city. In addition to the fame of his recent discoveries, Mr. Leslie was warmly recommended to the Town Council and Magistrates by testimonials from the most scientific and able men of the day. Vigorous opposition, however, was made to his election by most of the city clergy-who accused him of infidelity1-and they insisted on their right to be consulted in the choice of Professors, according to the original charter of the College. They protested against the proceedings of the Council ; and subsequently- on the 22d May-brought the affair before the General Assembly. The leaders in this opposition were of the moderate party, while the cause of Mr. Leslie was as warmly espoused by those usually to be found on the opposite side. The case created great excitement, Satisfactory testimonials were produced, as well as one of Mr. Leslie’s own letters, confirmatory of his orthodox principles. The debat-in which the Rev. Sir Henry MoncreifF was one of the The accusation of infidelity rested on a note in the “ Essay on the Natnre and Propagation of Heat,’’ in which Mr..Leslie took occasion to refer to Hume’s ‘‘Essay on N e w Connection.”
Volume 9 Page 189
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