GREGORY family name and its Scottish history

Reflecting telescope was invented by James Gregory

(2-3 minute read)

Are you researching the Gregory family history in Scotland?  Here are some highlights of the Gregory family to help you as you create your Gregory family tree.

Let’s get started with the latest in our series of posts about Scottish family names… this time it is the Gregory name and we have a list of respected university academics who contributed to Scottish society.  Are you related to any of them?

1. Meaning of the Scottish Gregory family name

The Gregory family surname comes from Greece to mean ‘watchman’ when the church needed men to watch after their buildings.  The earliest recorded name of Gregory appears in 1147 in Dunkeld where the Bishop there was Gregorius de duncallden. Go forward five hundred years later and 80 miles away and we come across Reverend John Gregory from Drumoak.  He claimed to be a descendant of the McGregor clan of Glenlyon and Roro.  Little did he know that he was the ancestor of one of Scotland’s academic dynasties.

2.  David Gregory (1625 – 1720)

David was Reverend Gregory’s second son.  Although he was known as David Gregory of Kinnairdy, he was also known to have fathered 29 children (he remarried after his first wife, Jean Walker, died in 1671).  However, he is mostly known for his mathematical and engineering knowledge.  There is a story that he was the first person in Scotland to have a barometer – the church took offence of this ‘evil’ instrument believing that it was used for witchcraft.  He escaped prosecution.

Three of his many children became prominent professors at various universities in Scotland and England.

  • Child no 4, David (1659-1708), was to become Professor of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh and Professor of Astronomy at the University of Oxford.
  • Child no 11, James (1666-1742), was Chair of Moral Philosophy at St. Andrews and also Professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh after his brother James resigned from there.
  • Finally, child no 22, Charles (1681-1749) was Professor of Mathematics at St. Andrews. When he resigned his son, David took over his post.

3.  James Gregory (1638 – 1675)

James who was Reverend Gregory’s youngest son is best known for his invention of the reflecting telescope.  He found that by using a mirror as the main optical element, rather than a lens, he was able to improve the telescope.  All the astronomical telescopes that we use today are reflecting telescope making him the father of this incredible invention.

James helped to contribute to the early development of calculus and was Professor of Mathematics at St Andrews and Edinburgh universities.

4.  Dr James Gregory (1674-1733)

The inventor’s son became Professor of Medicine at Aberdeen University where he founded the Medical School. He wrote many books to help improve the local environment from what to plant in a ‘Mediciner’s Glebe’ to protecting the Salmon fisheries in the nearby local river.

5.  John Gregory (1724-1773)

John, grandson of the telescopic inventor, was Chair of Philosophy as well as Medicine at Aberdeen University. Later in his life he became Professor of Medicine at Edinburgh and the first physician in Scotland to George III. After his wife died, he wrote a book, A Father’s Legacy to his Daughters, where he suggested that women should refrain from learning in order to attract a husband!

6.  … and there are more Gregory’s…

The list of Gregory academics goes on.  Many of Reverend Gregory’s descendants were university professors either in medicine or mathematics.  In the Gregory family tree we found at least 22 of his descendants who were professors over a span of 200 years. We now know that they were men with busy minds.

So, did you find that interesting? I hope you did and I wish you luck researching the Gregory family history in Scotland.

Click here to find out more about other Scottish family names.

Cheers from Scotland

Sarah x


You may also like...

10 thoughts on “GREGORY family name and its Scottish history”

  1. Melissa Gregory

    Just trying to learn more about my family heritage. Between my father’s surname Gregory and my mother’s maiden name Sullivan, I really want to learn more about our Scottish/Irish background.

      1. Melissa Gregory

        Hi Sarah,
        I’m really interested in learning more about my family but I’m disabled and live on a disability income. Needless to say after bills, groceries and medical bills there’s not much left to spend on frivolous things. But that being said I would like to find out more about Mt father’s family. My dad was the youngest of seven kids. And his father died before he was born. We also have a disease, Marfan Syndrome, that was not talked about much until the late 1970’s. Anyway if you can help me at all I would greatly appreciate it.

  2. My family is Gregory/Gillespie my grandmother’s grand parents both moved here from Ireland if I’m correct and it stopped there for me . I know my grandma was born in 1912 in I believe Sikeston, Mississippi and that’s all I know.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up to get your free download and keep up to date with genealogy news

Your information will never be shared
Sign up to get your free download and keep up to date with genealogy news

Your information will never be shared
Scroll to Top