Lord Monboddo

James Burnett

1714 (Monboddo, Scotland) – 1799 (Edinburgh)

Monboddo, an erudite eccentric independently-minded scholar, pioneered historical linguistics and is seen as a precursor to evolutionary theory. Smellie, Black and Hutton were all regulars at his ‘learned suppers’, Boswell and Johnson stayed with him, while Price, Banks and Jones were among his London friends (he visited yearly on horseback). Smith and Hume (Monboddo’s philosophical rival) belonged to the same literary club, Linnaeus corresponded, and Solander confided that to his disappointment, New Hollanders didn’t have tails. Burns, a friend, wrote an elegy when Monboddo’s much-admired daughter died.