Biography and History

James Ferguson was a Scottish-born astronomer and instrument maker. He taught himself how to read by listening to his father teach his father. At the age of 7, his taste for mechanics was accidentally awakened on seeing his father making use of a lever to raise a part of the roof of his house. While at home recovering from a sickness, Ferguson amused himself with making a clock with wooden wheels and a whalebone spring. In 1743 he went to London, which became his home for the rest of his life. Ferguson wrote various papers for the Royal Society of London, of which he became a fellow in 1763. He devised many astronomical and mechanical models, and in 1748 began to give public lectures on experimental philosophy. These he repeated in larger towns in England. His deep interest in the subject, his clear explanations, his ingeniously constructed diagrams, and his mechanical apparatus rendered him one of the most successful of popular lecturers on scientific subjects. It is, however, as the inventor and improver of astronomical and other scientific apparatus, and as a striking instance of self-education, that he claims a place among the most remarkable men of science of his country.

James Beresford was a teacher of mathematics at Bendley in Worcestershire, England.

Source: From the finding aid for C1331

  • James Ferguson Letters to James Beresford. 1771-1774 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1331

    Included in this collection is a series of six letters written by the Scottish astronomer and instrument maker, James Ferguson, to mathematics teacher, James Beresford. Included in the letters are Fergusons' detailed drawings and explantions of various atronomical and mechanical models of clocks.