Alexander Wilson (1714-1786)

Alexander Wilson (1714-1786)

Astronomer and type founder

Alexander Wilson was born in St Andrews and attended university there. After graduating in 1733 he spent some time as a surgeon's and apothecary's assistant in London.  He returned to the town of his birth where, in 1742, he set up a letter foundry to produce typeset letters for printing. In 1744 he transferred his operations to Glasgow. The elegance of his lettering became renowned, especially his Greek fonts which were used by the Foulis Press. In 1760 he was appointed as the first Professor of Astronomy at Glasgow University. In 1769 he described the 'Wilson effect' on sunspots near the edge of the sun.

Birth in 1714

Alexander Wilson was baptised on 10 October 1714, the son of Patrick Wilson, Town Clerk and Clara Fairfull. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for St Andrews and St Leonards includes the names of two witnesses.

Baptism entry for Alexander Wilson

Baptism entry for Alexander Wilson (22 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 453/2

Marriage in 1740

Alexander Wilson married Jean Sharp on 20 August 1740. The entry in the Old Parish Register for St Andrews and St Leonards shows that they were called before the session in 1741 because they had irregularly married. They produced a certificate by George Ayton, Episcopal minister and signed by Mary Stewart and An Wilson, witnesses to prove that they were married by Mr Ayton on that day. They were rebuked by the Moderator and 'solemnly engaged to adhere to one another as husband and wife'.

Marriage entry for Alexander Wilson

Marriage entry for Alexander Wilson (54 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 453/13, page 55

Death in 1786

Dr Alexander Wilson was buried on 19 October 1786. The entry in the Old Parish Register for Glasgow gives his age at death as 72 and the cause as 'aged'. It is indexed under the abbreviation Alexr.

Burial entry for Alexander Wilson

Burial entry for Alexander Wilson (7 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 644-1/59

Testament of Dr Alexander Wilson

National Records of Scotland, CC9/7/73 pp 266-268

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