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mand, without reserve, from your sincere friend, &c.
P. S.-Direct for me at Mr Aulds printing-house, Moroccos close.
Mr Smellie was one of the early members of a society of young men, established in 1760, for their mutual improvement in literature and science, more especially in natural philosophy, to which they gave the name of the NEWTONIAN Society, in honour of the immortal Newton, the author, so to speak, of the true science of nature, as founded upon observation and rigid mathematical induction, in opposition to the wild theories of Descartes and others. While we give a decided opinion, from experience, in favour of the societies which have long subsisted at the University of Edinburgh, as highly conducive to the improvement of youth, by means of free discussion, and by the strong inducement to study, which the natural ambition of being able to appear to advantage in these societies most certainly excites ; we must confess that we do not approve the adoption
of the name of any scientific person, however exalted his merit and reputation, as a denomination for a society instituted on purpose to search after truth. Newton in physics, Linnaeus in botany, Lavoisier in chemistry, Werner in mineralogy, may all have been excellent philosophers, and vastly superior to others in their day. But to adopt their names in this manner implies the setting bounds to the researches of the members, beyond which it were indecorous to endeavour to proceed; and indicates that every attempt to call in question any of the decisions of the patron philosopher may be in some measure considered as heterodox, at least within the walls of the particular society which has thus identified itself with his doctrines. Excessive deference to any name or authority, however exalted, degenerates into party or sect, and becomes a check or restraint on the
progress of research, instead of forwarding the great object of science, the expiscation of truth, either by the establishment of former opinions on new arguments and additional data, or by the discovery of error in long established opinions. It would swell these incidental observations far beyond any due bounds, to give illustration of their principles by the
many examples which might easily be found in the history of science. The mention only of the long and arbitrary reign of the Aristotelian philosophy may be quite sufficient to elucidate this idea.
Of this Society the following account has been communicated to Mr ALEXANDER SMELLIE, by Dr Robert Hamilton, Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of Aberdeen, one of its original members. Besides which, several allusions will be found respecting it, in the correspondence of Mr Smellie, in the sequel of these Memoirs.
From Dr Robert HAMILTON to Mr ALEX
Aberdeen, 1 March 1810. The Newtonian Society was instituted in 1760, and was composed of young men, most of whom had completed their academical studies at the University of Edinburgh. WeekVol. I.
ly meetings were held in one of the rooms of the College ; at each of which a discourse was read by one of the members in rotation, and a subject discussed which had been given out for debate at the preceding meeting. The original design of the Society was chiefly directed to the prosecution of Natural Philosophy, whence the members assumed the name of the NewTONIAN Society; but they afterwards extended their debates to miscellaneous subjects, though their discourses were always confined to natural science. The Society subsisted in this manner for several years; and though its members were fluctuating, as is usual with most societies, their number never exceeded twenty at any one time. Of the members of this Society, there are still in life, The Right Honourable RoBERT BLAIR, Lord President of the Court of Session, the Reverend Dr SAMUEL CHARTERS, minister of Wilton,--the Reverend Dr THOMAS MILLER, minister of Old Cumnock; and the Reverend Dr W. MACQUHAE, minister of St Quivox. Among the deceased members were, the Reverend Dr Henry HUNTER, late of London-wall ;-the Reverend Dr AnDrew Hunter, late Professor of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh ;-the Reverend Dr THOMAS BLACKLOCK;MICHAEL NA
ŠMYTH, Esq. writer to the signet;—Dr WilLIẢM BUCHAN, physician in London ;--Mr John Petrie;—Mr James Gray, writer ;Mr Michael GARDINER, surgeon in Dumfries ;—and Dr ALEXANDER ADAMS, late Rector of the High School of Edinburgh, was Secretary. I am, &c.
After the discontinuance of the regular meetings of this Newtonian Society, some of the members met once a week, in the evening, at a tavern in Edinburgh, to keep up their acquaintance, where they partook of a very sober repast, spending their time in agreeable conversation, partly literary and partly in social cheerfulness. Of this club, which continued for some years, only two members now remain alive, Dr ROBERT HAMILTON and Dr Samuel CHARTERS, with both of whom -Mr Smellie always continued upon an intimate and friendly footing.
In the year 1778, a new society was instituted under the name of the Newtonian Club, which appears to have been in some measure connected with the Philosophical Society, the original of the present Royal Society of Edinburgh. The members of this new society