Biography of John Jamieson
John Jamieson (1759–1838) was an alumnus whose Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language was the standard reference for the Scots Language in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Jamieson was born in Glasgow on 5 March 1759, the son of the Revd John Jamieson, a minister. His father ensured young John had an excellent early education and in 1768, at the age of nine, he registered in the class of George Muirhead, professor of humanity. From 1773 he studied the necessary course in theology with the Associate Presbytery of Glasgow, and in 1780 he was licensed to preach. He was first a minister in Forfar and it was there in 1781 he married Charlotte Watson, daughter of Robert Watson of Shielhill. Their marriage lasted fifty-five years and they had seventeen children. He next became minister of the Edinburgh Nicolson Street congregation in 1797 where he guided the reconciliation of the Burgher and Anti-Burgher sects to a union in 1820.
In 1788 Jamieson’s writing was recognised by Princeton College, New Jersey where he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity. His other honours included membership of the Society of Scottish Antiquaries, of the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh, of the American Antiquarian Society of Boston, United States, and of the Copenhagen Society of Northern Literature. He was also a royal associate of the first class of the Royal Society of Literature instituted by George IV.
Jamieson's chief work, the Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language was published in two volumes in 1808 and was the standard reference work on the subject until the publication of the Scottish National Dictionary in 1931. Jamieson's other works included Socinianism Unmasked (1786); a poem, The Sorrows of Slavery (1789); Sermons on the Heart (2 vols., 1791); Congal and Fenella, a Tale (1791); Remarks on Rowland Hill's Journal (1799); Important Trial in the Court of Conscience (1806); A Historical Account of the Ancient Culdees of Iona (1811); and Hermes Scythicus (1814).
Jamieson died on 12 July 1838 at his house in George Square, Edinburgh.