Life of James Stirling, the Venetian

Charles Tweedie
1920 Mathematical Gazette  
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more » ... Napier among the great Scottish mathematicians, belonged to the Garden branch of the family of Stirling. The Stirling family is one of the oldest of the landed families of Scotland. They appear as proprietors of land in the twelfth century. In 1180, during the reign of William the Lion, they acquired the estate of Cawder (Cader or Calder) in Lanarkshire, and it has been in the possession of the family ever since. Among the 64 different ways of spelling the word Stirling, as recorded in the Family History, a common one in these early days of the family was a variation of Striveling. In 1448 the estate of Keir in Perthshire came into the possession of a Stirling. In 1534 or 1535 the Cawder and Keir branches of the family were united by the marriage of James Striveling of Keir with Janet Striveling, heiress of Cawder. Since then the main family has been, and remains, the Stirlings of Keir and Cawder. By his second wife, Jean Chisholm, James had a family, and his second daughter Elizabeth married (1571-2) the famous inventor of Logarithms, John Napier, Baron of Merchiston (near Edinburgh), whose estates in the Menteith marched with those of the Barony of Keir. This was not the first connection by marriage between the two families, for in the old Napier residence of Wright's Houses in Edinburgh (now Gillespie's Hospital) there is preserved a stone, the armorial bearings on which record a marriage of a Napier to a Stirling (I.S.) in 1399. In 1613, Garden * in the parish of Kippen (Stirlingshire) first became a separate estate, being the gift of Sir Archibald Stirling of Keir to his son (Sir) John Stirling. The son of the latter, Sir Archibald Stirling, was a conspicuous Royalist in the Civil War, and was heavily fined by Cromwell; but his fortunes improved at the Restoration, and he ascended the Scottish bench with the title of Lord Garden. He succeeded to the estate of Keir, and a younger son Archibald (1651-1715) was given the Garden estate in 1668. Archibald's eventful career was one long chapter of misfortunes. Like the rest of the Stirlings he was a staunch Jacobite. In 1708, he took part in the rising known as the Gathering of the Brig of Turk. He was carried a prisoner to London, and then brought to Edinburgh, where he was tried for high treason but acquitted. He died in 1715, just about the outbreak of the Rebellion. By his first wife he had a son Archibald, who succeeded him. By his second marriage he had four sons and five daughters. The subject of this sketch, James Stirling, the Mathematician, was the second surviving son of the second marriage. The sons were James, who died in infancy; John, who acquired the Garden estate from Archibald, 1718-9; James the Mathematician; and Charles. The Armorial Bearings of the Garden branch of the Stirlings are: Shield: Argent on a Bend azure, three Buckles or: in chief, a crescent, gules. Crest: A Moor's Head in profile. Motto: Gang Forward.t YOUTH OF STIRLING; OXFORD. Save for the account given by Ramsay of Stirling in Scotland and Scotsmen in the Eighteenth Century (not always trustworthy) little is known of the early years of Stirling prior to his journey to Oxford. Ramsay, it is true, says that Stirling studied for a time at Glasgow University. This would have been quite in accordance with Stirling tradition, for those of the family who became students had invariably begun their career at Glasgow University; and the fact that Stirling was a Snell Exhibitioner at Oxford lends some * Pronounced Gardenne. t Scotice for A llez en avant. It reminds one forcibly of D'Alembert's famous advice to a timid mathematician: 4'Allez en avant. La foi vous viendra." This content downloaded from on Tue, 13 Jan 2015 06:47:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions THE MATHEMATICAL GAZETTE. colour to the statement. But there is no trace of his name in the University records. Addison in his book on the Snell Exhibitioners states that "Stirling is said to have studied at the University of Glasgow, but his name does not appear in the Matriculation Album." But from the time that he proceeds on his journey to Oxford his career can be more definitely followed though the accounts hitherto given of him require correction in several details. Several of his letters, written at this period, have fortunately been preserved. This fact alone sufficiently indicates the esteem in which he was held by his family, and their expectation of a promising future for the lad. Letters to his parents indicate his experience on the journey to London, and his endeavour to keep down expenses. "I spent as little money on the road as I could. I could spend no less, seeing I went with such company, for they lived on the best meat and drink the road could afford. None of them came so near the price of their horses as I did, altho' they kept them 14 days here and payed every night 16 pence for the piece of them." He reached Oxford towards the close of the year 1710. He was nominated Snell Exhibitioner on Dec. 7, 1710, and matriculated on Jan. 18, 1710-11, paying ?7 caution money. On the recommendation of the Earl of Mar he
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