Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gerard, Alexander (1738-1795)

GERARD, ALEXANDER, D.D. (1728–1795), theological and philosophical writer, born at the manse of Chapel of Garioch, Aberdeenshire, 22 Feb. 1728, studied at Marischal College, Aberdeen, and was licensed as a preacher of the church of Scotland in 1748. Two years later he became a professor of philosophy in Marischal College, following the old arrangement, by which each professor had to conduct the students over several branches of study. This arrangement was founded on the notion that logic ought to be the first study, and that its principles ought to be applied in the study of all other branches; but Gerard in 1755 published an acute pamphlet, in which he advocated a modification of the arrangement of studies, and prepared the way for the abolition of the old system.

In 1756 he gained a prize offered by the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh for the best essay on taste, and in 1759 this work was published. Its fundamental definition is that taste consists chiefly ‘in the improvement of those principles which are commonly called the powers of imagination,’ including the sense of novelty, sublimity, beauty, imitation, harmony, ridicule, and virtue. The work has thus a much wider scope than that which, according to modern ideas, belongs to the subject of taste. Under the sense of beauty Gerard gave a prominent place to the principle of association, in which he has been followed by Alison [see Alison, Archibald]. In 1760 Gerard was appointed professor of divinity in Marischal College, and likewise minister of the Greyfriars Church in Aberdeen. In 1771 he resigned both these offices, on his appointment to the chair of divinity in King's College. He was a member of a well-known literary and philosophical society in Aberdeen with which Drs. George Campbell, Thomas Reid, James Beattie, Blackwell, Gregory, and other distinguished men were connected, and where not a few papers were first produced which proved the germs of important contributions to literature. He was one of the chaplains of the king, supported the ‘moderate’ party in the church, and filled the chair of moderator of the general assembly in 1764. Gerard died 22 Feb. 1795. Other works published by him were: 1. ‘The Influence of the Pastoral Office on the Character examined; with a View especially to Mr. Hume's Representation of the Spirit of that Office,’ Aberdeen, 1760. 2. ‘Dissertations on Subjects relating to the Genius and the Evidences of Christianity,’ Edinburgh, 1766, a defence of the manner in which the evidence of Christianity was presented by its great author, and a contention that Christianity is confirmed by the objections of infidels. 3. ‘An Essay on Genius,’ London, 1774. 4. ‘Liberty a Cloak of Maliciousness, both in the American Rebellion and in the Manners of the Times,’ Aberdeen, 1778. 5. Sermons, 2 vols. 2nd edit. London, 1782. 6. ‘The Corruption of Christianity,’ Edinburgh, 1792. 7. ‘The Pastoral Care’ (posthumous), London, 1799. His son, Gilbert Gerard, D.D. [q. v.], assisted him in the last-named book.

[Scott's Fasti, iii. 475; Darling's Cyclopædia Bibl.; Kennedy's Annals of Aberdeen; Smith's Hist. of Aberdeen; Chambers's Eminent Scotsmen.]

W. G. B.