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Initially, both Greek and Latin formed the basis of the four-year Arts degree at the University, along with various branches of Philosophy, all taught by the first Regent of Philosophy, Robert Rollock (1555-1599). When it became apparent that potential students did not know enough Latin to follow his lectures, Glasgow graduate Duncan Nairn was appointed to be the second Regent, specifically to teach them. Within four years of the University opening its doors, a further position of Regent of Humanity was established with John Ray (c1577-1630). Regents of Philosophy and Humanity covered the entire curriculum for the next 120 years, until the University’s reorganisation in 1708, when another Regent, William Scott "primus" (1672-1735) was appointed to the new new Chair of Greek and Laurence Dundas (1662-1734) to the Chair of Humanity (aka Latin).

Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century

Scott was succeeded by his son, William Scott "secundus" (d. 1729) in 1729, who died after only a few months in post, and was succeeded by Colin Drummond (c1685-1753) in 1730. From 1738-1741, Drummond shared the Chair with Robert Law (d. 1741), son of former Regent and Professor of Moral Philosophy William Law (d. 1729). Robert Hunter (c1703-1779) then shared the Chair with Drummond until 1753, thereafter becoming sole Professor. Andrew Dalzel (1742-1806) suceeded Hunter in 1772 and was also Curator of the Library.

George Dunbar (1774-1851), previously assistant to Dalzel, was appointed to the Chair in 1805. He is perhaps best known for his Greek-English and English-Greek lexicon (1840). His successor, in 1852, was John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), who later endowed the Chair of Celtic.

Samuel Henry Butcher (1850-1910) succeeded Blackie in 1882. He was later President of the British Academy.

Since 1900

The next Professor was Alexander William Mair (1875-1928) in 1908. He died in a house fire in 1928 and for the next two years the Chair was held by Sir Arthur Wallace Pickard-Cambridge (1873-1952), before he left to be Vice-chancellor of Sheffield University. From 1930-1951, Sir William Moir Calder (1881-1960) was Professor of Greek. He was both a classical scholar and an archaeologist and published many works on the antiquities of Asia Minor. Arthur James Beattie (1914-1996) was the last to hold the Chair, and was appointed in 1951.

When Beattie retired from the Chair of Greek in 1981 and Ian Campbell from the Chair of Humanity a year later, funding restrictions prevented replacements from being appointed. University structures were moving in the direction of ever-larger units. By 1987, the Classical departments were united into one, with John Richardson as the first Professor of Classics.

List of Professors

William Scott "primus" (1672-1735), 1708-

William Scott "secundus" (d. 1729), 1729-

Colin Drummond (c1685-1753), 1730-1753

Robert Law (d. 1741), 1738-1741 (conjointly with Drummond)

Robert Hunter (c1703-1779), 1741-1772 (initially conjointly with Drummond)

Andrew Dalzel (1742-1806), 1772-1805

George Dunbar (1774–1851), 1805-

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), 1852-

Samuel Henry Butcher (1850-1910), 1882-

Alexander William Mair (1875-1928), 1903-1928

Sir Arthur Wallace Pickard-Cambridge (1873-1952), 1928-1930

Sir William Moir Calder (1881-1960), 1930-1951

Arthur James Beattie (1914-1996), 1951-1981