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Commemorative Plaques Record Details

Thomas Reid (1710 - 1796)

Picture of the Palque

Location : The Pend of King''s College Quadrangle, Old Aberdeen

Area : Central Aberdeen

Plaque Type : Yellow

About Thomas Reid : Philosopher and Scottish enlightenment scholar. Born in 1710 at Strachan in Kincardineshire, educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and Marischal College, where he trained in theology. He was later librarian of Marischal College and minister of Newmachar from 1737. Appointed a regent at King's College Aberdeen in 1751 and in 1764 appointed to the chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. His greatest contribution to the Scottish enlightenment was to develop the philosophy of Common Sense.

More Information : Thomas Reid was born on 26 April 1710. His father, Reverend Lewis Reid, was a presbyterian minister at Strachan in Kincardineshire and his mother was Margaret, née, Gregory. After attending the local parish school in Kincardineshire he was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School, from April 1722. In October 1723, after leaving school, he attended Marischal College, where he first took the general arts course, which he completed in 1726. He then studied divinity. After successful completion of this course he then went on to become a minister of the Church of Scotland. After two years as a presbytery clerk, in Kincardine O'Neil, he was appointed to the position of librarian of Marischal College in July 1733, which he held for three years between 1733 and 1736. After this he toured England before being appointed as minister of Newmachar (Aberdeenshire) in 1737. It was during his time as minister of Newmachar that he published his first work on philosophy, 'An Essay on Quantity; Occasioned by Reading a Treatise in which Simple and Compound Ratios are applied to Virtue and Merit.' This was a criticism of Hutcheson's An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, subtitled 'An attempt to introduce a mathematical calculation in subjects of morality.' On 12 August 1740 he married his cousin Elizabeth Reid: together they had nine children, of whom only one survived them, their daughter Martha. On 25 October 1751 he was elected as a regent at King's College, Aberdeen. As a regent, or teacher, he was required to be involved in teaching every aspect of the arts curriculum, excepting Greek. During this period he was a leading figure in the foundation of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society in 1758 (also known as the Wise Club). During his time at King's he was also involved in collegiate administration. In February 1764 he published An Inquiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense. Reid is remembered as the scholar who developed the theories and ideas of the Scottish school of Common Sense Philosophy. In many ways his work was concerned to refute the ideas and scepticism of Hume's work. However, this would be too limiting a description of such an important and well rounded figure who was a scholar in a wide sense rather than a narrow one. On 22 May 1764, after the resignation of Adam Smith from the chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, Reid was appointed, with assistance of Lord Kames. During his time at Glasgow Reid was again involved with university administration, eventually becoming Vice-Rector, 1784 and 1785: he also represented the university in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1767 and 1772. During this period he was also involved in charity work, in prison reform, in helping the newly established Glasgow Infirmary and with William Wilberforce's anti-slavery movement. He retired in 1780 in order to have the time to write up more of his work. In 1785 he published Essays on the Intellectual Power of Man and in 1788 Essays on the Active Powers of Man. Reid died, in Glasgow, on 7 October 1796. Reid has always enjoyed a good reputation and has always been the centre of much thought, writing and academic work. A large bibliography of work exists which deal with Reid and his work. He is also the subject of the Reid Society and in 1997 the University of Aberdeen established 'The Reid Project' to encourage study of him. In 2003 The Reid Project was expanded into the Centre for the Study of Scottish Philosophy. The University of Aberdeen's Special Collections also holds over 800 items relating to the teaching and writings of Reid (the Birkwood Collection, Mss 2131/1-8 and Mss 3061/1-26 and 2814), although parts of his correspondence are also held by the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Oxford as well as other repositories.