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Adam, Alexander

ADAM, ALEXANDER (1741-1809), Scottish writer on Roman antiquities, was born on the 24th of June 1741, near Forres, in Morayshire. From his earliest years he showed uncommon diligence and perseverance in classical studies, notwithstanding many difficulties and privations. In 1757 he went to Edinburgh, where he studied at the university. His reputation as a classical scholar secured him a post as assistant at Watson's Hospital and the headmastership in 1761. In 1764 he became private tutor to Mr Kincaid, afterwards Lord Provost of Edinburgh, by whose influence he was appointed (in 1768) to the rectorship of the High School on the retirement of Mr Matheson, whose substitute he had been for some time before. From this period he devoted himself entirely to the duties of his office and to the preparation of his numerous works on classical literature. His popularity and success as a teacher are strikingly illustrated by the great increase in the number of his pupils, many of whom subsequently became distinguished men, among them being Sir Walter Scott, Lord Brougham and Jeffrey. He succeeded in introducing the study of Greek into the curriculum of the school, notwithstanding the opposition of the university headed by Principal Robertson. In 1780 the university of Edinburgh conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. He died on the 18th of December 1809, after an illness of five days, during which he occasionally imagined himself still at work, his last words being, "It grows dark, boys, you may go." Dr Adam's first publication was his Principles of Latin and English Grammar (1772), which, being written in English instead of Latin, brought down a storm of abuse upon him. This was followed by his Roman Antiquities (1791), A Summary of Geography and History (1794) and a Compendious Dictionary of the Latin Tongue (1805). The MS. of a projected larger Latin dictionary, which he did not live to complete, lies in the library of the High School. His best work was his Roman Antiquities, which has passed through a large number of editions and received the unusual compliment of a German translation.

See An Account of the Life and Character of A. A., by A. Henderson (1810).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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