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Rev. Dr. John Lee


1779 - 1859

Academic who rose to become Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Born at Torwoodlee Mains (Midlothian), he entered the University of Edinburgh in 1794 and graduated in medicine in 1801. After a brief period working in a hospital he moved to London to preach before returning to Scotland where he was ordained in Peebles (1808).

Lee was appointed Professor of Church History at St. Mary's College, St. Andrews, in 1812 and went on to become Rector of the College. In 1820, he simultaneously took on the Chair in Moral Philosophy at King's College, Aberdeen. A year later he resigned both positions and became Minister of Canongate Church in Edinburgh, and then Minister of Lady Yester's Church. In 1834, he took on the charge of St. Giles Kirk in Edinburgh, and in 1837 he was Principal of the United College at St. Andrews. Lee was appointed Principal of the University of Edinburgh in 1840 and by 1843 also held the Chair of Divinity in succession to Thomas Chalmers (1780 - 1847). He was elected Moderator of the General Assembly in 1844 in the turbulent times following the Disruption.

Lee wrote a notable history of the University of Edinburgh and served on the Royal Commission which eventually gave rise to the Universities (Scotland) Act of 1858. One of its provisions was that the Principal of Scottish universities should be a layperson rather than an office of the established church.

In 1830, Lee was appointed as a Chaplain-in-Ordinary to the King, and also served as Dean of the Chapel Royal in Stirling (1840).

He died in Edinburgh. His portrait, by Sir John Watson Gordon (1788 - 1864) hangs in the University of Edinburgh and Lee House in Pollock Halls of Residence is named in his honour.


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