Alexander Adam


Notes : Schoolmaster and classical scholar. Born the son of a tenant farmer, he displayed remarkable determination in acquiring learning despite adverse circumstances. In 1768 he was appointed rector of Edinburgh high school, where he spent the rest of his life and was recognized as an outstandingly talented teacher. During his headship he caused controversy by introducing Greek into the curriculum: he was perceived to be infringing the privileges of the professor of Greek at Edinburgh University. More serious controversy followed when he started using his own Latin grammar, 'The Principles of Latin and English Grammar', which was in English rather than in Latin. (He had written this after observing how grammar was taught in France.) As well as 'Roman Antiquities, or, A Description of the Manners and Customs of the Romans' (1791), a compendium intended for students of Latin literature which was translated into German, French and English, Adam published a volume of classical biography, a Latin dictionary, and 'A Summary of Geography and History, both Ancient and Modern' (1794; 6th edn, 1824). His dying words were addressed to an imaginary class: ‘But it grows dark, boys—you may go; we must put off the rest till tomorrow’. 10-2010 VC.

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