John Mair (1465-1550)

John Mair (or Major) was born near Haddington in East Lothian around 1465. From what we may suppose to be humble beginnings, his academic career showed remarkable brilliance. Having graduated with a Master’s degree from the University of Paris in 1494, he became a lecturer there a year later, published his first book in 1499, and received his doctorate in theology from the Sorbonne in 1506, the same year he began to teach there. He returned to Scotland in 1517, to become Principal of the University of Glasgow, where he also taught both arts and theology. In 1523, he moved to the University of St. Andrews. Alongside administrative duties, he taught arts and theology at St Andrews for three years before returning to Paris. There he remained until 1531 when, for reasons that remain unknown, he returned to Scotland and to St Andrews once more, where his students included the celebrated Protestant reformer John Knox. Mair remained in Scotland until his death in 1550, at what was for the time an exceptionally old age. Among his publications was an enormous History of Greater Britain and an extended commentary on Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics. But he is chiefly known as the leader of a circle of exceptionally able late-mediaeval Scottish logicians.

Gordon Graham, Princeton Theological Seminary