Rev. Thomas Dick

1774 - 1857

Author, clergyman, philosopher and astronomer. Born in Dundee, the son of a linen weaver, he was inspired by the sight of a meteor at the age of nine to study the heavens and he developed a passion for astronomy. Initially he followed his father's occupation but, at the age of sixteen, he became an assistant in a local school. From 1794, he studied at the University of Edinburgh and then set up a school of his own. He obtained his licence to preach in 1801 and officiated as a probationer for the United Presbyterian Church in Stirling and elsewhere. He was invited to become a teacher at the Secession School at Methven (1807-17) and thereafter in Perth.

Following the success of his book The Christian Philosopher (1823, with a number of subsequent editions), he gave up teaching to concentrate on writing and, in 1827, built a small cottage with an observatory and library on a hill overlooking the Firth of Tay at Broughty Ferry. Dick attempted to reconcile science and religion, and believed that the greatness of God could best be appreciated by the study of astronomy. His work included a range of philosophical, scientific and religious books such as The Philosophy of Religion (1825), On the Mental Illumination and Moral Improvement of Mankind (1835), Celestial Scenery (1838), The Sidereal Heavens (1840), The Practical Astronomer (1845), containing a remarkable prediction of the benefits of celestial photography, The Solar System (1846), The Telescope and Microscope (1851). Despite the success of his books he was reduced to poverty, which was only alleviated when he was awarded a pension of £50 per annum by the government in 1847.

Dick advocated that every city should have public parks, a public library and a public observatory.

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