Professor Duncan Liddel

1561 - 17 December 1613

  • Mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and physician.
  • His Ars Medica (Hamburg 1608), in five books, was a standard medical work throughout Europe for a century.
  • On his death he endowed a chair of mathematics at Marischal College, provided funds for student bursaries and left the college his mathematical instruments and library.

Duncan Liddel (or Liddell) was born in Aberdeen and educated at the Grammar School and King’s College, where he graduated MA in 1579. He then studied on the continent. He became professor of Mathematics at Helmstadt during which time he took up medicine and graduated MD. In 1596 he became Professor of Medicine in Helmstadt.

He published many medical works and was highly regarded throughout Europe at the time. In 1607, after earning a considerable fortune from his medical practice, he returned to Aberdeen because of political and religious upheaval at Helmstadt. He bought land just north of Dyce.

He endowed a chair of Mathematics at Marischal College, which had been founded in 1593, and funded six bursaries in mathematics there.  He left his library and instruments to Marischal College.  Two memorials were erected to him, a monument which can be seen at Pitmedden, northwest of Dyce, and a memorial brass at St Nicholas Church, Aberdeen.  The translation of the Latin inscription on the brass plaque gushingly praises his ability and altruism, however, he paid for both memorials, and wrote the text of the plaque himself.

image: Wellcome Collection; 1790; Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Biography prepared from the nomination made to the University of Aberdeen 525 Alumni project.