Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847)

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Thomas Chalmers by Louisa Sinclair after Thomas Duncan, Edinburgh University Fine Art Collection (EU0405)

The theologian, preacher, and philanthropist Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) was born in Anstruther, Fife, on 17 March 1780. He was educated first at the parish school and then at St. Andrews University where he became a keen mathematician and scientist. He also wanted to be a preacher and when he became a Minister at Kilmeny in Fife, in 1803, he also gave lectures on Chemistry at St. Andrews. As a preacher he made his name at the Tron Church from 1815, and at St. John's Parish, Glasgow, from 1820. In 1828, Chalmers became Professor of Divinity at Edinburgh University, and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1832. Within the Church, Chalmers was the leader of the Evangelical party, and as such he proposed the Veto Act (1834) which gave some power to the parishes to reject a minister proposed by the patron. This stand against patronage contributed to the Disruption in 1843 when joined around one third of Church ministers in forming the Free Church of Scotland. He became the first Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland and shortly afterwards resigned his Chair at Edinburgh University. He was the first Principal and Professor of Divinity of the Free Church's New College.