Papers of James Hutchison Stirling, 1820-1909, philosopher, Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland

Scope and Content

Medical lecture notebooks (copies) early 1840s

Administrative / Biographical History

James Hutchison Stirling was born on 22 June 1820  , the fifth son of William Stirling, craftsman, of Glasgow. He first matriculated at the University of Glasgow in 1833  at the age of 13, and followed a full Arts curriculum (1833 Latin, 1834 Greek, 1835 Greek, 1836 Logic, 1837 Ethics) before continuing on to medical studies under Harry Rainy ( 1792-1874  ), who became a professor of Medical Jurisprudence in the Faculty of Medicine in 1841, and Dr Buchanan.

The following excerpt comes from Stirling‰??s obituary in The Lancet: Early in life he showed a leaning toward philosophical studies, and in 1838 the professor of moral philosophy gave him as a subject for a thesis, St Anselm‰??s argument in the Proslogion for the existence of God. With the fine carelessness of youth Stirling is said to have pronounced this argument a sophism, although in later life he came to regard it as the first word of modern philosophy. He did not obtain a degree in either Arts or Medicine from the University of Glasgow. He became a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1842 and a Fellow in 1860. In 1843  he settled in practice at Hirwain, Glamorganshire, and later he moved to Glyn Neath. For a while he was a surgeon to the Hirwain and other iron and coal works in South Wales.

Upon the death of his father in 1851  Stirling retired from practice and went abroad. He studied firstly in Paris under Dumas, Orfilia and Milne Edwards. In 1854  he moved to Germany, where he resumed his philosophical research of Kant and Hegel. In 1857  he returned home and turned to writing books on philosophy. His publications include: The Secret of Hegel: being the Hegelian system in origin, principle, form, and matter , 1865; Materialism in relation to the study of medicine: an address to medical students , 1868; Lectures on the philosophy of law , 1873; Text-book to Kant: the critique of pure reason : aesthetic, categories, schematism: translation, reproduction, commentary, index, with biographical sketch , 1881; Darwinianism: workmen and work , 1894; and What is thought?: or, The problem of philosophy by way of a general conclusion so far , 1900.

He was a Foreign Member of the Philosophical Society of Berlin and delivered the first Gifford Lecture Series at the University of Edinburgh on Philosophy and Theology in 1888-1890  . He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of Edinburgh in 1867  , and one from the University of Glasgow in 1901  . James Hutchison Stirling died at the age of 89 on the 19th March 1909  . He left an estate of c å£10,000 to his four daughters, Jessie Jane Armstrong, wife of the Rev Robert Armstrong of Glasgow, and Amelia, Florence and Lucy, who were all three living at the parental home in Edinburgh. Edinburgh University still awards an annual James Hutchison Stirling Prize to the best student studying for the degree of MA with Honours in Philosophy who has attended a second course in Philosophy, but who is not yet in his or her final year.

Sources: Glasgow University Archives student records, Medical Directory 1898 , The Lancet , March 27 1909, p.248, Calendars of Confirmation.


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Deposit: c 1977

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Related Material

Edinburgh University Library: Edinburgh University Library Testimonials of James Hutchison Stirling. Edinburgh : Printed by Thomas Constable, [1868?]. commonplace book and essays Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Reference : GB 0237 Dc 1 103, 4 104; 1866-1888 : letters to JS Blackie National Library of Scotland, Manuscript Collections Reference : GB 0237 MSS 2627-2637 passim; 1897-1906 : letters to EH Blakeney (15 items) Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives Reference : GB 0237 Add 7509 NRA 40859 Blakeney; c.1900-1909 : corresp with publishers National Library of Scotland, Manuscript Collections Reference : GB 0237 Dep 247 342 NRA 20220 Clark see NRA(S)1353; 1891-1909 : letters to John Snaith Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Reference : GB 0237 Dk 2 6; 1870-1899 : corresp with WH White Bedford Central Library NRA 19222 White.

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Additional Information

Description compiled in line with the following international standards: International Council on Archives,ISAD(G) Second Edition, September 1999 and National Council on Archives,Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names

Scotland is the location of all place names in the administrative/biographical history element, unless otherwise stated.

Fonds level description compiled by Andrew Thomson, Assistant Archivist (Cataloguing), 07 July 2005.