Colinus McLaurin

Biography of Colinus McLaurin

Colin MacLaurin (1698-1746) was a graduate who became a prominent mathematician and natural philosopher.

Born in Kilmoden in Argyll, third son of clergyman John MacLaurin and his wife Mary Cameron, Colin followed his brother John to the University in 1709 and began his studies with Professor Robert Simson. MacLaurin graduated in 1713 and stayed at the University for a further year to study divinity. In 1717, at the age of 19, he became Professor of Mathematics at Marischal College in Aberdeen.

MacLaurin visited London where he met Sir Isaac Newton and other eminent members of the Royal Society, himself becoming a member. He also travelled to France, meeting with many French mathematicians. While there, he was awarded a Grand Prize by the Academy of Sciences in Paris for his work on the impact of bodies. After a period as tutor to the son of the Earl of Marchmont, in 1726 he took up the post of deputy to James Gregory, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh who was too ill to teach. As was standard at the time, Gregory retained the income for that professorship for life which meant that a second salary was difficult to obtain. It is said that Isaac Newton himself paid £20 a year towards MacLaurin's salary and Mathematics at Edinburgh flourished.

In 1740, he was awarded a second prize from the Academy of Sciences in Paris, this time for a study of the tides. This prize was jointly awarded to Maclaurin, Euler and Daniel Bernoulli, which saw Maclaurin published alongside the top two mathematicians of his day.

A staunch opponent of the Jacobites, MacLaurin supervised the operations to defend Edinburgh against Bonnie Prince Charlie's armies but he fled to York when the city was taken. He returned to Edinburgh once the Jacobites had moved south but he died soon after his return. He is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh.


Colinus McLaurin
Born February 1698, Scotland.
Died 14 June 1746.
University Link: Graduate
GU Degree: MA, 1713; Arts,
Occupation categories: mathematicians; natural philosophers
Additional Information: GUA 26659 p4
Record last updated: 10th Sep 2015

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