Hugh Miller, The Cromarty Stonemason 1802- 1856

Cromarty today is a quiet little town on the Black Isle, North-east Scotland. At the dawn of the nineteenth century, however, it was an important fishing centre, and an important trade supplying the needs of visiting shipping sheltering in the firth nearby, brought relative prosperity.

Born on 10 October 1802, as a boy, Hugh loved the rocky shores and wooded hills of the Black Isle, which he explored, sometimes alone or with friends, sometimes with his uncles, who taught him to appreciate the teeming wildlife of sea, shore and countryside. At nightfall, by the glow of a cottage fire, he was entranced by the tales the old folk could tell, as they passed the long winter evenings.

His father having died at sea when he was five, he developed a certain self-reliance, and so, despite his uncle’s offer to fund a college place, at seventeen he decided to become a stonemason. He knew the trade was hard, but also that the slack winter months would allow him to study natural history and literature, his true vocation. For the next fifteen years, he travelled all over the north of Scotland, quarrying, stone-cutting and building. During this time, as he laboured, he made many of the geological observations familiar in his writings. The Old Red Sandstone, until then little known to fossil collectors or geologists, became his particular interest. Continue reading Hugh Miller, The Cromarty Stonemason 1802- 1856

Cases in Court by Sir Patrick Hastings

Sir Patrick Gardiner Hastings KC (17 March 1880 – 26 February 1952) was a British barrister and politician noted for his long and highly successful career. His skill in cross-examination was legendary. As a young man he served in the South African War, and also worked as a drama critic before studying law. He entered Parliament in 1922, was appointed Attorney-General in the first Labour Government. In 1948, Hastings published his autobiography, simply titled The Autobiography Of Sir Patrick Hastings, and in 1949 published Cases In Court, a book giving his views on 21 of his most noted cases. The same year he published Famous and Infamous cases ,a book on noted trials through history, such as those at Nuremberg. In 1948, he suffered a small stroke which forced him to retire. Hastings stayed in Kenya for two years, but spent the last two years of his life living in a flat in London, before dying on 26 February 1952 of cerebral thrombosis. The following excerpts from Cases In Court ,serve as a tribute and give a sense of his direct style.

“The position of the advocate causes much misunderstanding. The question addressed here is the often asked:   “How can a self-respecting counsel honestly defend a person whom he knows or believes to be guilty? How can he in honesty represent a client whom he believes to be a liar?” Such questions show woeful ignorance of the duties and obligations of the English legal system. Inasmuch as a barrister is the only person who has the right of audience in a Superior Court, that right casts upon him the absolute duty to represent to the best of his ability any client who requires his services and is prepared properly to instruct him”…

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William Whiston 1667- 1752

William Whiston was born in Leicestershire on 9th December 1667, the son of an Anglican clergyman. He is often simply dismissed as a devout eccentric. How accurate is this?

William Whiston was a brilliant Cambridge University colleague of Sir Isaac Newton. If you consult the English edition of the writings of the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (see section below), you will likely be reading the translation published by Whiston in 1736. Although other translations exist, his scholarly rendering, along with his notes and essays, has yet to be surpassed and is still in print. Many consider this work to be Whiston’s ultimate achievement.

Not to be overlooked, however, is the Primitive New Testament, Whiston’s translation of the Greek Scriptures. It was published in 1745, in his 78th year.

Love for the Bible was the motivation for what Whiston did. He lived in the ‘Age of Reason’ and Deism, the teaching that reason alone is an adequate basis for belief in God, was growing.  According to James E Force’s book William Whiston: Honest Newtonian , he strongly upheld “the traditionalist view that the Bible is the one infallible source of ancient history.” Sir Isaac Newton, foremost English scientist and philosopher, and author of the 1687 Principia Mathematica, had a profound effect on William Whiston. How?

After Whiston was ordained in 1693, he returned to Cambridge University to study mathematics and become an assistant to Newton. Three years later, Newton relinquished his position as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, and Whiston was appointed in his stead. Whiston lectured on astronomy and mathematics, but Newton’s influence also spurred him to take a deeper interest in Biblical chronology and doctrine.

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John Wycliffe c.1320-1384

Born around the year 1320, near old Richmond, Yorkshire, John Wycliffe was sent to Oxford University, where he rose to become master of Balliol College by 1361 and, some years later, a doctor of theology. His expertise with English law and Canon law was not merely the result of his interest in the subject, but of a deep-rooted desire to see English liberties defended and maintained. From the time of King John a tribute had been paid to the Pope in acknowledgment of his supremacy. In 1365 a demand was received from Pope Urban V for this money, along with arrears covering more than 30 years. The next year, Parliament decided that King John in unilaterally agreeing to the tribute, acted beyond his right, that the feudal tribute would be resisted. Seeing their determination, the pope dropped his demand, but not without generating some controversy on the part of the members of the monastic orders in England.

In reply, Wycliffe wrote a tract in which he legally defended the stand Parliament had taken. His argument was couched in the words of various Lords in Council: “It is the duty of the Pope to be a prominent follower of Christ; but Christ refused to be a possessor of worldly dominion. The Pope, therefore, is bound to make the same refusal. As, therefore, we should hold the Pope to the observance of his holy duty, it follows that it is incumbent upon us to withstand him in his present demand.”(John Wycliffe and His English Precursors)

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Immanuel Velikovsky 1895-1979

Immanuel Velikovsky, born in Vitebsk, Russia, 10 June 1895. He learned several languages as a child, graduating with full honours from Medvednikov Gymnasium, Moscow. He later studied at Montpelier, France, and Edinburgh, Scotland. At the outbreak of World War I, he returned to Moscow studying law and ancient history. He received his medical degree from Moscow University in 1921. In 1923, he married Elisheva Kramer, an accomplished violinist from Hamburg. That year they moved to Palestine, and he began medical practice. After studying in Vienna under Bleuler, a pupil of Freud’s, he began practising Psychoanalysis. In 1930, Velikovsky was the first to suggest that encephalograms would be found that would characterise epilepsy. In the summer of 1939, Velikovsky came to America to further his researches. He was one of the greatest original thinkers of the twentieth century, and his legacy continues to be the boldest, most provocative theory on the history of this earth, physical and cultural, a theory that has and will only increase in significance as time passes. If not correct in every detail, many of his ideas pass for the original work of others.   “During the course of his life, Velikovsky suffered the loss of his homeland, and the family left behind as he was forced to flee Bolshevik Russia, the near extermination of his race at the hands of the Nazis, the attempted suppression of his life’s work, and savage attacks upon his character and scholarship throughout the last three decades of his life”. As he once said, ” A newly discovered truth is first attacked as being false; but when it is finally accepted as true it is attacked as not being new.” Continue reading Immanuel Velikovsky 1895-1979