Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Balfour, Robert (1550?-1625?)

BALFOUR, ROBERT (1550?–1625?), Scotch philosopher and philologist, is believed to have been born about 1550. According to the statement of David Buchanan, he derived his lineage from a distinguished family in Fifeshire, but he has himself informed us (Commentarius in Cleomedem, 196) that he was born in Forfarshire, probably near Dundee. From a school in his native district he was sent to the university of St. Andrews, and thence he proceeded to the university of Paris, where he attracted much attention by the ability with which he publicly maintained certain philosophical theses against all oppugners. Afterwards he was invited to Bordeaux by the archbishop of that see, and there he became a member of the college of Guienne. He was elected professor of Greek, and at length, probably in 1586, was appointed principal of the college, which he continued to govern for many years. It appears that he was alive in 1625, but the date of his death is not recorded. Balfour left behind him the character of a learned and worthy man, the only fault attributed to him by one biographer being his zealous adherence to the Roman catholic faith. His contemporary, Dempster, says he was 'the phœnix of his age; a philosopher profoundly skilled in the Greek and Latin languages; a mathematician worthy of being compared with the ancients; and to those qualifications he joined a wonderful suavity of manner, and the utmost warmth of affection towards his countrymen.' His reputation as a scholar rests mainly on his commentary on Aristotle. The titles of his works are:

  1. 'Gelasius, Σύνταγμα τών κατα τήν έν Νικαία δγίαν Σύνοδον πραχθέντων' Paris, 1599, 8vo; Heidelberg, 1604, fol. An edition of the Greek text, accompanied by a Latin translation. Gelasius, with Balfour's translation, has been reprinted in several editions of the Concilia.
  2. 'Cleomedis Meteora Graece et Latine. A Roberto Balforeo ex MS. codice Bibliothecæ Illustrissimi Cardinalis Ioyosii multis mendis repurgata, Latine versa, et perpetuo commentario illustrata.' Bordeaux, 1605, 4to. This work was commended by Barthius and other learned men, and even in the present century it was held in such estimation that it was republished by Professor James Bake at Leyden in 1820, 8vo.
  3. . 'Prolegomena in libros Topicorum Aristotelis,' 1615, 4to.
  4. 'Commentarii in Organum Logicum Aristotelis,' Bordeaux, 1618, 4to.
  5. 'Commentarii in lib. Arist. de Philosophia tomus secundus, quo post Organum Logicum, quacumque in libros Ethicorum occurrunt difficilia, dilucide explicantur,' Bordeaux, 1620, 4to.

[Buchanan, De Scriptoribis Scotis, 129; Dempster, Hist. Ecclesiastica Gentis Scotorum, 119; Irving's Lives of Scottish Writers (1839), i. 234-46; Anderson's Scottish Nation, i. 217; Chambers's Biog. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen, ed. Thomson, i. 68; Cat. of Printed Books in Brit. Mus.]

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