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Sir William Hamilton

Hamilton, Sir William (1788–1856). Metaphysician, born in Glasgow, in the University of which his father and grandfather successively filled the Chair of Anatomy and Botany, ed. there and at Balliol College, Oxford, was called to the Scottish Bar, at which he attained little practice, but was appointed Solicitor of Teinds. In 1816 he established his claim to the baronetcy of H. of Preston. On the death of Dr. Thomas Brown in 1820, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Chair of Moral Philosophy in Edinburgh, but in the following year he was appointed Prof. of History. It was not until 1829 that he gave full proof of his remarkable powers and attainments as a philosopher in a famous article in the Edinburgh Review, a critique of Victor Cousin’s doctrine of the Infinite. This paper carried his name over Europe, and won for him the homage of continental philosophers, including Cousin himself. After this H. continued to contribute to the Review, many of his papers being translated into French, German, and Italian. In 1852 they were collected with notes and additions, and published as Discussions in Philosophy and Literature, etc. In 1836 H. was elected Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at Edinburgh, which office he held with great reputation until his death, after which the lectures he had delivered were edited and published by Prof. Mansel and Veitch. His magnum opus was his edition of the Works of Dr. Thomas Reid, left unfinished, and completed by Mansel. H. was the last, and certainly the most learned and accomplished, of the Scottish school of philosophy, which he considered it his mission to develop and correlate to the systems of other times and countries. He also made various important contributions to the science of logic. During his later years he suffered from paralysis of one side, which, though it left his mind unaffected, impaired his powers of work. A Memoir of H. by Prof. Veitch appeared in 1869.

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