Sunday, June 20, 2010

Adam Ferguson

Today's subject may have done much to inspire a young Walter Scott to further his literary interests.  Dr. Adam Ferguson was Chair of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University, and a leading figure in the Scottish Enlightenment.  Ferguson's friends included David Hume and Adam Smith.  Dr. Ferguson was born on June 20, 1723.

Ferguson is best known as something of an early sociologist. One of his major works was "Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767)", which analyzed commercial society with regard to its impact on community virtues.

A generation older than Scott, a connection was made at Edinburgh University through Ferguson's son, also named Adam.  The elder Adam ran literary salons in Edinburgh, through which Walter Scott, at age 15 or so, met Robert Burns.  The story of this meeting has been told many times, which is that Burns noticed a print of the poem "The Justice of the Peace" while attending Ferguson's group, and asked who knew who had written it.  Scott had the correct answer, which is John Langhorne.

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