Year

1989

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Hons.)

Department

Department of Science and Technology Studies

Abstract

The Church of Scotland experienced the great "Disruption" in 1843, which led to the formation of the Free Church of Scotland and its theological College, known as the "Hew College". Thomas Chalmers was not only the principal leader of the Disruption, but also the first Principal of the New College. It was through his influence that a chair in Natural Science was created, with the appointment of the famous Scottish geologist, John Fleming. Only a person who was committed to the teaching of the sciences could insist that such a chair be created in a theological institution.

This thesis seeks to collocate Chalmers' scientific interests and to show that he was the first of the great evangelical preachers of nineteenth century Scotland to introduce scientific issues into the Scottish pulpit.

Although he attended St. Andrew's University and graduated in arts and theology with a view of entering the ministry of the Church of Scotland, his real interest was not in theology, but in mathematics. He pursued his study in mathematics and natural philosophy at a post graduate level at Edinburgh under the famous Professors John Playfair and John Robison. It was during his stay at Edinburgh that he was introduced to Chemistry by Charles Hope.

Whilst a minister of the Church at Kilmany, he continued his interest in the sciences by lecturing five days a week at St. Andrews in Mathematics and Chemistry.

In 1809 he was converted to Evangelical Christianity, but he continued his interest in the sciences, but only at a secondary level of importance.

The preaching and the publication of the "Astronomical Discourses" in 1816 had an enormous appeal as he argued ruthlessly against the "unscientific premises of the sceptics", who forced an unnecessary wedge between science and religion. It was Chalmers' assertion that science and Christianity were in perfect harmony.

Be took an active interest in the British Association for the Advancement of Science throughout his life and developed the natural philosophy of John Robison and formulated what has become known as the "Gap theory".

His approach to systematic theology was a major departure from accepted orthodoxy, due principally to his acceptance of a Baconian philosophy.

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