James Thomson (minister)

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James Thomson (1768–1855) was a Scottish minister and editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica.


Born on 9 May 1768 at Crieff in Perthshire, was the second son of John Thomson by his wife, Elizabeth Ewan; Thomas Thomson was his younger brother. James was educated at the parish school, and afterwards went to Edinburgh University. He was licensed to preach by the presbytery of Haddington on 6 August 1793, and frequently assisted his uncle, John Ewan, minister of Whittingham, East Lothian.

On 26 August 1805 Thomson was ordained minister of Eccles, Berwickshire. In 1842 he received the honorary degree of D.D. from the university of St. Andrews, and in 1847 he resigned his charge and retired to Edinburgh. In 1854 he moved to London, where he died on 28 November 1855.


In 1795 Thomson became associated with George Gleig, bishop of Brechin, as co-editor of the third edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. He wrote articles himself, including those on "Scripture", "Septuagint", and "Superstition"; that on "Scripture" was retained in later editions. During the same period he prepared an edition of The Spectator with short biographies of the contributors (Newcastle, 1799, 8 volumes). In 1796 he became tutor to the sons of John Stirling of Kippendavie, and resigned his post on the Britannica to his brother Thomas. Both brothers were contributors to the Literary Journal founded in 1803 by James Mill, James writing the philosophic articles. In his country life he devoted himself to the study of the Bible in the original tongues. Thomson was also the author of:

  • Rise, Progress, and Consequences of the new Opinions and Principles lately introduced into France, Edinburgh, 1799.
  • Expository Lectures on St. Luke, London, 1849-51.
  • Expository Lectures on the Acts of the Apostles, London, 1854.
  • Sketch of the present State of Agriculture in Berwickshire in his brother's Annals of Philosophy.


On 10 October 1805 Thomson married Elizabeth, eldest daughter of James Skene of Aberdeen, second son of George Skene of Skene, Aberdeenshire. She died in 1851, leaving three sons: Robert Dundas Thomson; James Thomson, chairman of the government bank of Madras; Andrew Skene Thomson; and a daughter Eliza.



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Thomson, James (1768-1855)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.