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Humanity was the standard term used in Scottish Universities to mean Latin.


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).

Early Years

Dundas was succeeded by Adam Watt in 1728 and he in turn by John Ker in 1734. George Stuart was appointed in 1741, holding the Chair for over 30 years. The next professor was John Hill (c1747-1805), who also had over 30 years in post. He introduced a series of lectures on Roman antiquities.

Hill was succeeded by Alexander Christison (1753-1820) in 1806. In 1826, James Pillans (1778-1864) was appointed. He held the Chair for 53 years and, amongst other things, enlarged the range of classical authors proposed for study.

Modern Period

1863 saw the appointment of William Young Sellar (1825-1890) to succeed Pillans. A modern classicist, his emphasis was to reproduce the spirit rather than the letter of Roman literature. His name and that of his successor, Harry Chester Goodhart (1858-1895), adorn the principal Classics book collection in the University today. Goodhart's time at Edinburgh was cut short by an early death from pneumonia; he served only 5 years from his appointment in 1890.

William Ross Hardie (1862-1916) had studied under Sellar and was appointed to the Chair in 1895 to succeed Goodhart. He dedicated himself primarily to teaching. Oliffe Legh Richmond (1881-1977) was appointed in 1919.


When Arthur Beattie retired from the Chair of Greek in 1981 and Ian M. 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

Laurence Dundas (1662-1734), 1708.

Adam Watt, 1728.

John Ker, 1734.

George Stuart (c1715-1793), 1741-1775

John Hill (c1747-1805), 1775-1805

Alexander Christison (1753-1820), 1806-1820

James Pillans (1778-1864), 1820-1863

William Young Sellar (1825-1890), 1863-1890

Harry Chester Goodhart (1858-1895), 1890-1895

William Ross Hardie (1862-1916), 1895-1916

Oliffe Legh Richmond (1881-1977), 1919-

Michael Grant (1914-2004), 1948-1959

Ian M. Campbell (1915-), 1959-1982

Other People

  • Literary forger, William Lauder (c1680-1771), applied unsuccessfully to succeed Adam Watt, having previously been his assistant.
  • Christian James Fordyce (1901-1974), later Professor of Humanity at the University of Glasgow, was Lecturer in Humanity, 1926-1927.


  • University Calendar
  • Lee, Sidney (Ed.), Dictionary of National Biography (1892), vol. 32, p. 200