John Gregory

John Gregory

18th century Scottish physician, medical author and moralist
Date of Birth: 03.06.1724
Country: Great Britain

  1. John Gregory: Scottish Physician, Medical Author, and Moralist
  2. Academic Career and Marriage
  3. 'Father's Legacy to his Daughters' and Later Years
  4. Legacy and Death

John Gregory: Scottish Physician, Medical Author, and Moralist

John Gregory, the grandson of mathematician and astronomer James Gregory, was born on June 3, 1724, in Aberdeen, Scotland. His parents were James Gregorie, a professor of medicine, and Anna Chalmers, his father's second wife. Gregory's father passed away when he was eight years old, and his education was taken over by his maternal grandfather and his half-brother, who was also a professor of medicine. His cousin, Thomas Reid, a philosopher and moralist, also played a role in his education. Gregory attended a local grammar school before becoming a student at King's College, University of Aberdeen. In 1742, Gregory and his mother moved to Edinburgh, where he studied medicine and became friends with physician and poet Mark Akenside.

Academic Career and Marriage

In 1745, Gregory traveled to Leiden to continue his studies. In 1746, shortly after obtaining his degree, he became a professor of philosophy at King's College, where he taught mathematics and philosophy. He also practiced medicine and, preferring patients to lectures, resigned his academic position in 1749. On April 2, 1752, Gregory married Elizabeth Forbes, who gave birth to three sons, including James Gregory, and three daughters. In 1754, the family moved to London, where they socialized with politicians such as John Wilkes, Charles Townshend, and George Lyttelton, as well as art patron and social reformer Elizabeth Montagu. Montagu wrote that the hours she spent in John Gregory's company were some of the most pleasant in her life. It was during this time that the Scottish physician began writing his last name as 'Gregory' instead of 'Gregorie.' In 1756, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. Gregory later returned to Aberdeen to take up another teaching position. In addition, he became an active member of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society. The work he presented there was later anonymously published in the collection 'A Comparative View of the State and Faculties of Man, with those of the Animal World' (1765). Gregory believed in a universal human nature that could be discovered through scientific experiments. According to him, reason and instincts were the most important elements of human nature. The study of the natural world, Gregory argued, should lead to the cultivation of good taste and an understanding of religion.

'Father's Legacy to his Daughters' and Later Years

In 1761, Gregory's wife passed away, and to honor her memory, he wrote 'Father's Legacy to his Daughters,' which became his most famous publication. Gregory originally intended to pass the text on to his daughters after his death, but his son James published the work in 1774. 'Legacy' became a bestseller, went through many editions, and was translated into other languages. It contained advice for parents and women on religion, morality, friendship, and relationships with men, with a particular emphasis on marriage. Interestingly, Gregory proposed that women hide their learning from men, believing that it might discourage potential suitors – a viewpoint that would later face fierce criticism. In 1764, Gregory returned to Edinburgh and opened a medical practice. Two years later, he became the principal physician in Scotland to King George III and joined the faculty of the University of Edinburgh. From 1767 to 1769, Gregory gave a series of medical lectures, and in 1769, he and William Cullen, another notable Scottish physician and scholar, joined forces in practice and theory. Some of his lectures were published as 'Observations on the Duties and Offices of a Physician and on the Method of Prosecuting Enquiries in Philosophy' (1770). In 1772, his work 'Elements of the Practice of Physic' was published, in which Gregory explored the origin and diseases of children.

Legacy and Death

John Gregory died in Edinburgh on February 9, 1773. He was buried at the Canongate Kirk cemetery, but his gravestone only bears the name of his son James, who also became a renowned physician and professor of medicine – the powders he formulated were used in the treatment of stomach ailments until World War I.