William Knight. From black & white
print of a miniature portrait.

William Knight was born in Aberdeen on 17 September 1786. He attended Aberdeen Grammar School where Lord Byron was a fellow pupil. In 1793, he began his studies at Marischal College and graduated with an MA in 1802. Knight was offered the opportunity to teach natural history at Marischal between 1810-1816 and published his Outlines on Botany in1813.In 1816 he was elected Professor of Natural Philosophy in Belfast, and the following year he received an LLD from Marischal College. Knight went on to publish his most important contribution to the field of natural history, entitled Facts and Observations towards Forming a New Theory of the Earth (1818). In 1822 Knight returned to Marischal as Professor of Natural Philosophy.  His lecturing style was apparently 'characterized by much pungency, occasionally relieved by a ‘sarcastic scurrility which no other lecturer ventured on, and which was far from pleasant’.

Model of Maudslay's Steam Engine. ABDNP:20045a

Knight purchased two model steam engines, one second-hand in 1829 a ‘model of Maudslay’s steam engine’ from G. Watt of Old Aberdeen and another ‘steam engine model, v. small, in brass’ in 1834.  This is believed to be the 1829 model.  It was completely restored to working order and painted in 1976.

Several demonstration instruments Knight purchased are still in the collection although it is sometimes difficult to reconcile existing items with the older documentation.

William Knight's notes on Natural Philosophy, 1820.

Special Collections Centre holds archival material in the form of lecture notes, class tickets, correspondence and 8 volumes of detailed notes on Marischal College, covering all aspects of university life.

For more information on the University museums and archival collections please search the online catalogue.