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Gordon, Robert (1647-1704) (DNB00)


GORDON, Sir ROBERT (1647–1704), man of science, born 7 March 1647, was the eldest son of Sir Ludovick Gordon, second baronet of Gordonstoun in Drainie, Elginshire, by his first wife Elizabeth, daughter and coheiress of Sir Robert Farquhar of Mounie in Daviot, Aberdeenshire. His grandfather was Sir Robert Gordon (1580-1656) [q. v.] According to an unprinted account of the family, quoted by Sir Robert Douglas, he 'travelled much into foreign countries for his improvement, was a man of extensive learning and knowledge, and particularly skilled in mechanics and chemistry, which sufficiently appears by the long correspondence by letters he kept with that celebrated philosopher, Mr. Boyle. He contrived a curious machine or pump for raising of water, which was tried in the Fleet and highly approved of, and found far to exceed anything of that kind then known, both for the facility of working and the quantity of water it discharged; but as neither the inventor, nor the present possessor [his son, Robert, the fourth baronet, who died in 1772], had ever an offer of any encouragement suitable to the merit and usefulness of the thing, it still remains a secret in the family' (Baronage of Scotland, pp. 8-9). Gordon represented Sutherlandshire in the Scotch parliament of 1672-4, sat in the convention of 1678, in that of 1681-2, and again in 1685-6 (Foster, Members of Parliament, Scotland, 2nd edit. p. 153). He was knighted in 1673 and succeeded to the baronetcy in September 1685. He seems to have been somewhat of a favourite with James II, who made him a gentleman of his household, and affected an interest in his scientific inventions (Diary of Patrick Gordon, Spalding Club, pp. 128-9). On 3 Feb. 1686 he was elected F.R.S. (Thomson, Hist. of Roy. Soc. Appendix iv. p. xxviii.) In April 1687 he communicated to the society, by the king's command, a wondrous 'Receipt to cure Mad Dogs, or Men or Beasts bitten by Mad Dogs' (Phil. Trans. xvi. 298). Gordon died in 1704. He was twice married, first, on 23 Feb. 1676, to Margaret, widow of Alexander, first lord Duffus, and daughter of William, eleventh lord Forbes. She died in April 1677, leaving a daughter. His second wife, Elizabeth, only daughter of Sir William Dunbar, bart., of Hempriggs, Wick, brought him a family of three sons and four daughters. The year following his death his widow erected a mausoleum to his memory on the site of the old church of Ogston, immediately to the east of the mansion of Gordonstoun. An underground chamber at Gordonstoun is shown as his laboratory, and he lives in the popular traditions of the neighbourhood as a mighty wizard, 'Sir Robert the warlock.' Two letters addressed to him by Samuel Pepys in May and June 1687 on the subject of payments for his pumps are preserved at Gordonstoun (Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. p. 687).

[Pedigree annexed to Case of Sir R. Gordon, bart., 1769, 1770, 1771, 4to and fol.; Sir R. Gordon's Genealog. Hist. of Earldom of Sutherland, 1813, p. 536; Douglas's Baronage of Scotland, pp. 6-10; Diaries of the Lairds of Brodie, (Spalding Club); Diary of Patrick Gordon (Spalding Club), pp. 128-9, 136; New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845. xiii. 154; Lachlan Shaw's Hist. of Province of Moray (Gordon), ii. 58n.; Coxe's Catalogus Codicum MSS. Bibl. Bodl. pars v. fasc. ii. p. 720; E. D. Dunbar's Social Life in Former Days, 2nd ser. 1865-6.]

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