David Hume's Failed Application for Chair of Moral Philosophy, 1745

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In 1745 Edinburgh University missed the chance to employ Scotland's greatest philosopher David Hume (1711-1776).

On 20 February 1744, the Chair of Moral Philosophy became vacant following the resignation of Sir John Pringle (1707-1782). Pringle had held the Chair since 1734 but had attracted few students and had been on leave for three years working as a military surgeon to the British Army in Flanders. The Town Council of Edinburgh was keen to raise the standing of the vacant post and initially offered it to Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746), Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University and founder of the Scottish school of philosophy. Hutcheson declined, and David Hume applied in his place. His candidature was controversially blocked by the clergy of Edinburgh who suspected Hume of being both an atheist and sympathetic to Jacobitism. Their choice fell instead on William Cleghorn (1718-1754), a staunch Presbyterian and committed Whig, who had deputized for Pringle during his leave of absence.

Other University Events in 1745

The University and the '45


  • Alexander Bower, The History of the University of Edinburgh. 3 vols. Edinburgh, 1817-1830.
  • Sir Alexander Grant, The Story of the University of Edinburgh during its First Three Hundred Years, 2 vols (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1884)