Scottish mathematician, invented the first reflecting telescope
in 1663. He published a description of the reflecting telescope
in "Optica Promota," which was published in 1663. He
never actually made the telescope, which was to have used a parabolic
and an ellipsoidal mirror. The Aberdeen mathematician, is arguably
the greatest scientist associated with St Andrews. In 1661, at
the age of 23, he invented a type of reflecting telescope, later
to be described as `Gregorian'. He was appointed to the newly
established Chair of Mathematics at St Andrews in 1668 and almost
immediately began to plan an observatory. In 1673 he was authorised
by the University to go to London specifically to purchase `.
. . such instruments and utensils as he with advice of other skilful
persons shall judge most necessary and useful.' His purchases
included three clocks, made by the leading London clock maker,
Joseph Knibb - a matched pair of long-case clocks and a smaller
split-second timepiece (the first such instrument ever produced),
which are still in the possession of the University. Gregory described
these clocks in a letter dated 19th July, 1673 from Gregory to
John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal at Greenwich. Another
letter of 1674 mentions that other instruments were acquired,
and these may well have included the great planispheric astrolabe
and armillary sphere made by the Elizabethian engraver Humphery
Cole, and the mariner's astrolabe of Elias Allen. Support for
the connection between Gregory and the Elizabethian instruments
is provided by the fact that the great planispheric astrolabe
has a plate which was produced specially for it by John Marke,
a London instrument maker of Gregory's period, which enables the
astrolabe to be used at a Scottish latitude.
was a friend of John Collins, a leading London mathematician,
who had studied at Cambridge and kept him abreast of recent discoveries.
Gregory may possibly have visited Isaac Newton at Cambridge, as
the more famous mathematician frequently relied upon Gregory's
work in subsequent years. Indeed the pair were often working on
very similar projects at almost identical times. In 1667, for
example, Gregory developed converging series to obtain quadratures,
a process later used by Newton, who remarked: "The same year
I found the methods of tangents of Gregory. . . and in November
had the direct method of fluxions!"
after initial enthusiasm, the St Andrews academics found Gregory's
`New Philosophy' distasteful: `a prejudice which the Masters of
the University did take at Mathematics' (Gregory's own words)
led to violence as students were forcibly kept from his lectures.
In 1674 Gregory accepted an invitation to become a professor at
Edinburgh University, but died the following year, aged, 37. A
member of an incredibly illustrious scientific family, Gregory's
contribution to the field of mathematics and natural philosophy
was immense. Indeed he is unlikely to be forgotten, as telescopes
made to his design will forever carry his name.