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Welwood, William (DNB00)


WELWOOD or WELWOD, WILLIAM (fl. 1578–1622), successively professor of mathematics and of law at St. Andrews University, born in Scotland, was probably a native of St. Andrews, where many of his kindred dwelt. He was a master of the New College as early as 1578. While occupying these posts he interested himself in experiments, drawing water from wells or low ground. In studying this subject he made an independent discovery of the principle of the siphon. On 13 Nov. 1577 he and John Geddy received a patent for their invention under the privy seal, and in 1582 he published a quarto of six leaves entitled ‘Gullielmi Velvod de Aqua in altum per Fistulas plumbeas facile exprimenda Apologia demonstratiua, Edinburgi. Apud Alexandrum Arbuthnetum, Typographum regium,’ in which he expounded his method. It consisted in connecting with a well a leaden pipe bent into a siphon, and extended on the exterior so as to discharge the water at a point below the orifice opening into the well. Closing both ends of the pipe, he filled them with water from an aperture in the upper point of the siphon, and then closing this with great exactness, and opening both ends, he maintained that water would continue to flow from the well until it was exhausted. Basing his theory, however, on the principle that ‘nature abhors a vacuum,’ he was ignorant that the rise of the water in the pipe is caused by the external pressure of the atmosphere, and, in illustrating his theory, supposed his well might be forty-five cubits deep. Prefixed to his book are some verses to Andrew Melville [q. v.] A unique copy of the work is in the library of the university of Edinburgh.

About 1580 Welwood and William Skene, the professor of law, were removed from the New College to that of St. Salvator. Their admission was opposed by the masters of St. Salvator's, who alleged that the funds of the college were inadequate for such an additional burden, and that the new professorships were quite superfluous. On 25 July 1583 the chancellor and other officials of the university presented a supplication against Welwood, saying that he ‘has employed no diligence in that profession of mathematik this yeir,’ and ‘that the college is super-expendit.’

This opposition was chiefly occasioned by Welwood's strong sympathy with the regent, Andrew Melville, and by his friendship with many of the most eminent reforming divines. When Melville was summoned to appear before the privy council on the charge of preaching a seditious sermon in January 1583–4, Welwood signed the university testimonial in his favour. About 1587 he exchanged the mathematical for the juridical chair, succeeding John Arthur, the brother-in-law of Patrick Adamson [q. v.], archbishop of St. Andrews, who had been removed from the professorship. In consequence he incurred the enmity of the archbishop's party, and in 1589 a determined attempt to assassinate him was made by Hendrie Hamilton, a retainer of Adamson's, who assaulted and wounded him in the High Street of the city. A tumult followed, in which James Arthur, brother of the ex-professor, lost his life, and in consequence Welwood's brother John was sentenced to banishment (James Melvill, Diary, Wodrow Soc. pp. 272–5).

In 1590 Welwood published his treatise on ‘The Sea Law of Scotland. Shortly gathered and plainly dressit for the reddy vse of all Seafairing men. Imprinted by Robert Waldegraue,’ Edinburgh, 8vo, which is said to be the earliest work on the subject published in Britain. A copy is in the university library at Cambridge. This was followed in 1594 by a short treatise entitled ‘Jvris Divini Jvdæorvm ac Jvris Civilis Romanorvm Parallela,’ Leyden, 4to, a clear sketch of the points of resemblance between the Jewish and Roman codes, interesting as an early study in comparative jurisprudence. In the same year he published another legal treatise entitled ‘Ad expediendos Processvs in Jvdiciis ecclesiasticis Appendix Parallelorum Juris Diuini Humanique,’ Leyden, 4to, dedicated to David Black and Robert Wall, ministers at St. Andrews, in which he distinguished between forms used in civil courts and those which ought to be used in matters of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. In May he dedicated to John Kennedy, fifth earl of Cassillis [q. v.], a third treatise, published at Middelburg, entitled ‘Ars domandarvm Pertvrbationvm ex solo Dei verbo quasi transcripti constrvcta.’ Though these works were published in the Netherlands, the dedication to Cassillis is dated from St. Andrews. Welwood probably remained in Scotland while printing his books on the continent to avoid the notice of the privy council.

His views concerning ecclesiastical prerogatives, however, were too pronounced to escape notice, and in 1597 he was removed from his professorship by the royal visitors on the allegation that ‘he had transgressed the foundation in sundry points.’ The visitors then proceeded to declare ‘that the profession of the laws is no ways necessary at this time in this university,’ and suppressed the class altogether. In 1600 the king, out of his ‘frie favour and clemency, decerned Mr. Wm. Walwood to be repossessed in the lawyer's plece and professioun in the auld college of Sanctandrous, upon his giving sufficient bond and security for his dutiful behaviour.’ Welwood did not, however, receive restitution at that date, and it is doubtful whether he was ever replaced.

About the beginning of 1613 Welwood was in London, whence he wrote to Andrew Melville, then at Sedan, informing him of the death of Prince Henry. In that year he published a second manual of maritime law, entitled ‘An Abridgement of all Sea-Lawes’ (London, 4to), in which he compared the traditional codes of Oléron and Wisby with the principles of the Roman civil code. The work was dedicated to James I. Another edition appeared in 1636 (London, 8vo), and it was reprinted in 1686, without the author's name, in an edition of the ‘Consuetudo vel Mercatoria Lex’ of Gerard de Malynes. In January 1615–16 he republished a Latin version in quarto of the part relating to the question of maritime supremacy under the title ‘De Dominio Maris Juribusque ad Dominium præcipue spectantibus Assertio brevis et methodica,’ in which he upheld the English pretensions to supremacy in the narrow seas. Another edition was published at The Hague in 1653, and drew from Dirk Graswinkel, a native of Holland, the reply ‘Maris liberi Vindiciæ adversus G. Welwodum Britannici maritimi Dominii Assertorem,’ The Hague, 1653, 4to. Welwood's latest extant work appeared in 1622. It was entitled ‘Dubiorum quæ tam in foro poli quam in foro fori occurrere [sic] solent, breuis expeditio,’ London, 8vo.

[Welwood's Works; McCrie's Life of Andrew Melville, 1856; Diary of James Melvill (Wodrow Soc.), pp. 272–5; Dickson and Edmund's Annals of Scottish Printing, 1890.]

E. I. C.