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Gregor Urquhart (b.c.1799)

Gregor Urquhart (b.c.1799)

Portrait of Elizabeth Stirling, daughter of Sir James Stirling of Keir, bust-length in black lace trimmed dress, black headdress and bejewelled necklace, after a 17th Century prototype

oil on canvas
30 x 25in. (76.2 x 63.5cm)
in Georgian-style carved gilt and painted broken corner frame
William Stirling of Keir, later Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, 9th Bt., undated inventory no.134

Lot Essay

Elizabeth Stirling (died 1579) was the second daughter of Sir James Stirling or Stirling of Keir (died 1588) by his second marriage. In 1572 or 73, she married John Napier, 8th of Merchiston (1550-1617), by whom she had two children. Her son, Archibald, became Treasurer-Depute of Scotland and was created Lord Napier of Merchiston in May, 1627.
Her husband devoted his life to agriculture, Protestant theology, scientific investigation and, most important, to mathematics. In 1594, his Plain Discovery of the whole Revelation of St. John was published; it was an anti-Catholic polemic of enormous influence. However, his most important work was in the development of arithmetic and algebra, which led to "his discovery of the correspondence between arithmetical and geometrical progression and the logarithmic canon, which after years of intense study he founded upon it," (Douglas). As well as inventing logarithms, he invented the present notation of decimal fractions while computing the logarithmic table, which he published in 1614 as Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Descriptio (Description of the marvellous Canon of Logarithms.) David Hume (see lot 466) said that the title of great man more justly belonged to Napier than to any other whom his country every produced.

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