William Wishart "primus" (1660-1729)

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William Wishart "primus" (1660-1729) was Principal of Edinburgh University from 1716 to 1729.


Wishart was the son of William Wishart (1621-1692) Minister of Kinneil, Linlithgow, and Christine Burne, daughter of Richard Burne, a magistrate in Linlithgow. He had two brothers: James (c1659-1723), who served as an officer in the navy and played a significant role in the capture of Gibraltar, and George, who entered the army, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

Wishart was educated privately before entering Edinburgh University, where he graduated MA in 1680. He studied divinity at the University of Utrecht, where he may have met William Carstares (1649-1715). On his return to Scotland he was imprisoned by the Privy Council in 1684 for denying the authority of James II, but was released a year later.

He was ordained as a minister in 1688, but had to wait until 1692 before being appointed minister of South Leith Parish Church. In 1691 he married Janet Murray (d. 1744), daughter of Major William Murray of Toucham. In 1706 he served as moderator of the General Assembly, a role he would fulfil a further four times. During this period he became minister of the Tron Church in Edinburgh and Principal of the University.

Wishart died in Edinburgh on 11 June 1729. At his commemoration service, John Bell described him as a 'godly, grave person, a sweet and excellent preacher, whose life being of a piece with his preaching, he made almost as many friends as there were persons known to him'. His son William would also become Principal of the University of Edinburgh.


Wishart's writings, mainly sermons and other discourses, were collected into two volumes entitled Theologia, or, Discourses of God: Delivered in CXX Sermons (Edinburgh, 1716).


  • Minister of South Leith Parish Church 1692-1707
  • Moderator of the General Assembly 1706, 1713, 1718, 1724, 1728
  • Minister of Tron Church, Edinburgh 1707-1729
  • Principal, University of Edinburgh 1716-1729


  • Sir Alexander Grant, The Story of the University of Edinburgh during its First Three Hundred Years, 2 vols (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1884)
  • Michael Jinkins, 'Wishart, William (1660ï-1729)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) [[1], accessed 17 Sept 2010]