Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gordon, Andrew

661046Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 22 — Gordon, Andrew1890Thompson Cooper

GORDON, ANDREW (1712–1751), natural philosopher, a descendant of the ancient house of the Dukes of Gordon, born at Cofforach, Angusshire, on 15 June 1712, was educated at Ratisbon, and afterwards travelled in Austria, Italy, and France. On his return to Ratisbon he took the habit of the order of St. Benedict in the Scotch monastery there, and in due course he was ordained priest. He subsequently studied law at Salzburg, and in 1737 he was appointed professor of philosophy in the university of Erfurt. His zeal in the cause of modern science aroused against him the enmity of many adherents of the old school, whom he attacked in a number of learned dissertations. He gained for himself a European reputation by his experiments in electricity. He was the first electrician who used a cylinder instead of a globe. His cylinders were eight inches long and four inches in diameter. They were made to turn with a bow, and the whole instrument was portable. Instead of using a cake of rosin, he insulated by means of a frame furnished with a network of silk. He was enabled to excite the electricity of a cat so strongly that the force, communicated by iron chains to spirit of wine, set it on fire. In recognition of his scientific acquirements he was elected a correspondent of the Academy of Sciences of Paris. He died on 22 Aug. 1751.

His most remarkable works are:

  1. ‘Programma de studii Philosophici Dignitate et Utilitate,’ Erfurt, 1737, 4to.
  2. ‘De Concordandis Mensuris,’ Erfurt, 1742, 4to.
  3. ‘Phsenomena Electricitatis exposita,’ Erfurt, 1744, 8vo; also published in German.
  4. ‘Philosophia Utilis et Jucunda,' Ratisbon, 1745 3 vols. 8vo.
  5. ‘Unpartheyische Nachricht von dem Ursprunge des jetzigen Krieges in Grosbritannien, in einem Briefe vorgetragen,’ Strasburg, 1745, 4to.
  6. ‘Dissertatio de Spectris,’ Erfurt, 1746, 4to.
  7. ‘Varia ad Philosophiæ Mutationem spectantia,’ Erfurt, 1749, 4to.
  8. ‘Physicæ Experimentalis Elementa,’ Erfurt, 1751-2, 2 vols. 8vo.

[Adelung's Gelehrten-Lexikon, ii. 1527; Priestley's Hist. of Electricity, 1775, i. 88, 159.]

T. C.