John Gowdie (c1682-1762)

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John Gowdie (c1682-1762) was Principal of Edinburgh University from 1754 to 1762, having previously served as Professor of Divinity (1733-1754).


Gowdie, the son of Agnes Aberneathy and John Gowdie, was born at Jedburgh (c1682) where his father worked as a schoolmaster. In 1700, Gowdie graduated from the University of Edinburgh, became licensed to preach in 1702 and finally became Minister of Earlston in 1704. He was translated to Lady Yester's Church, Edinburgh in 1730, before moving to the New North Church in 1732. In 1733 he was made Moderator of the General Assembly.

Gowdie is mainly remembered now as causing the first Secession from the Church of Scotland, when his casting vote caused the suspension of four Ministers on account of their protest against the heritable rights of vacancy. The four ministers refused the verdict and formed the Associate or Seceding Presbytery, along with many others.

In May of 1733, Gowdie was elected to Professor of Divinity, vacated by James Smith who had become Principal. At the age of seventy-two, Gowdie was elected as Principal, but possibly due to his age, he was rather ineffective as a principal; even his sermons were considered uninspiring.

During his life he was married twice, first to Jean Deas or Daes (d.1736) in 1706, with whom he had a son and a daughter, and the second to Anne Ker (d.1764) in 1743 with whom he had one child. Gowdie died in Edinburgh on 19 February 1762, and was buried in Greyfriars churchyard.


  • Minister of Earlston, Berwickshire, 1704
  • Minister of Lady Yester�s Church, Edinburgh, 1730
  • Minister of West St Giles (New North Church), 1732
  • Moderator of the General Assembly, 1733
  • Elected Professor of Divinity at Edinburgh University, 1733
  • Became King's Chaplain and Dean of the Chapel Royal, 1735
  • Principal of Edinburgh University, 1754
  • Awarded DD by Edinburgh University, 1759


  • A sermon preached at the opening of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland: in the High Church of Edinburgh, on the 2d of May 1734, before His Majesty's High Commissioner (Edinburgh, 1734)
  • The propagation of the Gospel and the blessed effects thereof: a sermon preached in the High Church of Edinburgh, Monday, January 6. 1735, upon occasion of the anniversary meeting of the Society in Scotland for propagating Christian knowledge (Edinburgh, 1735)
  • The salvation of souls: the desire and endeavour of every faithful minister of the Gospel. Being the substance of two sermons from Romans X.I.; preached before the Presbytery of Edinburgh, at the admission of some brethren to the work of the ministry within their bounds (Edinburgh, 1736)


  • Sir Alexander Grant, The Story of the University of Edinburgh during its First Three Hundred Years, 2 vols (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1884)
  • Laurence A. B. Whitley, 'Gowdie , John (c.1682-1762)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) [[1], accessed 24 Sept 2010]