We now approach the foundation of Marischal College. The Earl Marischal may have been actuated by the failure of his attempt to reform King’s College. At all events, his mind was made up to follow Melville in assigning separate subjects to his Regents. The Charter is explicit on this head. Yet in spite of the Charter and in spite of his own presence, the intention was thwarted; the old Regenting lasted 160 years.
Still the Curriculum reform was gained. There was, indeed, one great miss. The year before Marischal College was founded, Galileo had published his work on Mechanics, which, taken with what had been accomplished by Archimedes and others, laid the foundations of our modern Physics. Copernicus had already published his work on the Heavens. It was now time that the Aristotelian Physics should be clean swept away. In this whole department, Aristotle had made a reign of confusion; he had thrown the subject back, being himself off the rails from first to last. Had there been in Scotland an adviser in this department, like Melville in general literature, or like Napier of Merchiston in pure mathematics, one fourth of the college teaching might have been reclaimed from utter waste, and a healthy tone of thinking diffused through the remainder.
A curious fascination always attached to the study of Astronomy, even when there was not much to be said, apart from the unsatisfactory disquisitions of Aristotle. A little book, entitled “Sacrobosco on the Sphere,” containing little more than what we should now teach to boys and girls, along with the Globes, was a University text-book throughout Europe for centuries. I was informed by a late King’s College professor that the Use of the Globes was, within his memory, taught in the Magistrand Class. This would be simply what is termed a “survival”.