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THE UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN derives its origin and endowments from two separate, and for a long time independent foundations. The one of these was the University founded by WILLIAM ELPHINSTONE, Bishop of Aberdeen, under the authority of a Papal Bull, obtained in 1494-5, at the instance of King James IV.; within which University was afterwards founded, in 1505 the College of St. Mary, subsequently called King's College, From this Royal Patronage, it was held to stand in a specially close relation to the Sovereign, and is accordingly styled in Acts of Scots Parliament-'Our Sovereine Lord His College and University'. The other foundation was that of Marischal College, founded in 1593, by GEORGE KEITH, fifth Earl Marischal, under a Charter ratified by Act of the Scots Parliament.
The first of these Institutions was constituted originally as a 'Studium Generale et Universitas Studii generalis, "as well in Theology, in Civil and Canon Law, as in Medicine and in the Liberal Arts, as also in any other lawful Faculty," with all rights and privileges as to Degrees exercised by the Universities of Paris and Bologna'. Various confirmations by Parliament followed, but among these, the most specific is that of the Parliament of 1670 (Fasti Aberd., p. 169-70), an Act of which Parliament recites and sanctions all the privileges conferred as to Degrees. not only equal to those enjoyed by Paris and Bologna, but also 'any other University whatsomever'. The power hereby conferred on, and the authorisation thus given to the Degrees of the University of Aberdeen, both for European and national validity, are at once explicit and complete, more complete, indeed, as to
title than those belonging to any other single University in Scotland. This completeness of title has been acknowledged by the Commission of 1858, who in their Report, on p. 222, in order to establish the validity of certain degrees in another Scottish University, make appeal to the Charter of the University of Aberdeen, as constituted in 1494, as furnishing the conclusive argument by analogy upon which reliance is ultimately placed.
The two Colleges or Academic Corporations above named, both of them exercising University rights and privileges, co-existed for a long period as independent and rival institutions, and although various attempts were made, and notably in 1641, to form them into one Academic body, these attempts were unsuccessful. The Caroline University of 1641 can hardly be said to have had a real existence, and it was not until the year 1858, on the passing of the first Universities' Act, that they became united and incorporated into one university. The history of each of these bodies falls, therefore, to be given separately, until within a comparatively recent period.
University and King's College.
By the Bull of Erection of the University in 1494, the Bishop of Aberdeen was constituted Chancellor; and a Rector is mentioned, although the mode of election to that office is not prescribed. After the abolition of Episcopacy, the Chancellor, who was henceforth a layman, was chosen for life by the Principal and Masters; the Rector sometimes taking part in the election.
The Officials of the College of St. Mary (in Nativitate), more commonly known as "The King's College,” founded by Bishop Elphinstone, in 1505, with a view to the work of instruction in the newly erected University, were the Principal, who was also Doctor or Professor of Theology; a Doctor or Professor in each of the Faculties of Canon Law, Civil Law, and Medicine; a SubPrincipal or Chief-Regent, a Humanist, and three out of six Masters of Arts, Students of Theology on the Foundation, selected by the Principal and Sub-Principal to act with the latter as Regents in Arts. The three Regencies, which at first were held by the incumbents only for the time (six years) necessary to enable them to graduate in Theology, soon came to be regarded as permanent appointments. According to the mode then general in Academic teaching, each Regent (the Sub-Principal included) conducted the studies of a class in all the branches of the Curriculum in Arts during the three and a half years from its entrance to its laureation.
Towards the end of the Sixteenth Century, the assent of the Scots Parliament was given to a Nova Fundatio confining the teachers each to a separate department, as at present. It is not clear how far this alteration ever came at that period into active
operation. The older system of continuous instruction under a Regent was undoubtedly again in force in 1641, when the King's College of Old Aberdeen was united, by Royal Charter, with the more recently-founded Marischal College of Aberdeen, under the title of King Charles' University. The Act of Parliament ratifying this union of the Colleges fell, by its date, under the General Act Rescissory, passed after the Restoration, and so became a dead letter.
After the foundation, in 1620, of a distinct Professorship of Divinity, the Principal of the King's College, although still the head of the Theological Faculty, ceased to give stated prelections in Theology. By the Universities Act of 1858, the office of Principal in the united University was made tenable by Laymen, and the Principal, as such, has ceased, in terms of that Act, “to be or be deemed a Professor of Divinity".
The office of the Canonist, which had become merely titular after the Reformation, ceased to exist in the 17th century. The Civilist became, in 1860, Professor of Law in the University of Aberdeen.
The duties of the Doctor or Professor of Medicine (Mediciner), originally intended to embrace instruction in all the branches of Medical Education, were in 1839 restricted to the teaching of Chemistry. In its original form, this Chair constitutes the most ancient foundation for Instruction in Medicine in Great Britain.
In 1700, in accordance with an Act of a Royal Commission for the Visitation of the Scottish Universities, the special duty and designation of Professor of Greek were assigned to one of the Regents, and a century later the functions and title of Professors of Moral Philosophy, of Natural Philosophy, and of Mathematics, were respectively allotted to the other three Regents. One of the four Regent-Professors was styled Sub-Principal until 1860, when the office was abolished.
The Professorship of Oriental Languages was founded in 1673. In 1703, and again in 1732, the College appointed persons to be Professors of Mathematics, but the attempt to establish the office as a separate chair failed, through want of endowment. In 1800, one of the Regents was appointed Professor in this department.
1515 Alexander Gordon,
1518 Gavin Dunbar, 1532 William Stewart,
1546 William Gordon,
1577 David Cunningham,
1600 Peter Blackburn, the elder,† 1617 Alexander Forbes,
1618 Patrick Forbes, 1635 Adam Ballenden,+ 1643 George Gordon,
1660 John Maitland,
1662 David Mitchell,
1716 Archibald Campbell,||
1718 John Ker, T
1761 James Ogilvy,'
1793 Alexander Gordon,
Jacobus Strathauchin ++
1600-19 John Strauchane
1623-33 James Sandelands
1634-35 Dr. John Forbes of Corse++
Dr. Alexander Scrogie §§
Dr. Arthur Johnston |
1537-8 Alexander Spittal
1539 Alexander Hay
1638-39 Dr. Alexander Ross §§
*Further details as to the officials will be found in the New Spalding Club's Officers and Graduates of King's College, 1893.
+ Previously Regent, Glasgow University.
Ballenden was deposed by the Glasgow Assembly of 1638, and died in 1642. § Chancellor of King Charles' University of 1641.
Afterwards third Duke of Argyll. Declined at first to accept the office, but bore the title till his death in 1761.
** Afterwards sixth Earl of Findlater.
++ In the following year Rector of the University of St. Andrews.
Author of the "Irenicum," and one of the famous group of "Aberdeen Doctors" mentioned by Clarendon, in the time of the Covenant.
§§ Another of the "Aberdeen Doctors".
Medicus Regius, and, next to Buchanan, the greatest Latin poet of Scotland.