About Adam Lord Gifford

The Gifford Lectures

2024 Lecture Series

February - March 2024

About Adam Lord Gifford

Adam Gifford was born in Edinburgh on 29th February 1820. Home-schooled in his early years, he later studied at the Edinburgh Institution, before being apprenticed to his uncle, an Edinburgh solicitor, in 1835. After attending classes at the university and joining the Scots Law Debating Society, he sought a career as an advocate, and was called to the bar in 1849. In 1861 Gifford was appointed an advocate-depute, and in 1870 he was nominated a judge, taking his seat in the Court of Session as Lord Gifford. From 1863 until her death in 1868, he was married to Maggie Pott. Despite progressive illness, Gifford worked on until his retirement in 1881, and died on 20th January 1887, being survived by one son, Herbert James Gifford. His will left a sum of £80,000 to found lectureships in natural theology at the four ancient universities of Scotland, and clearly expressed his motivation:

I having been for many years deeply and firmly convinced that the true knowledge of God, that is, of the Being, Nature, and Attributes of the Infinite, of the All, of the First and the Only Cause, that is, the One and Only Substance and Being, and the true and felt knowledge (not mere nominal knowledge) of the relations of man and of the universe to Him, and of the true foundations of all ethics and morals, being, I say, convinced that this knowledge, when really felt and acted on, is the means of man's highest well-being, and the security of his upward progress, I have resolved, from the ‘residue’ of my estate as aforesaid, to institute and found, in connection, if possible, with the Scottish Universities, lectureships or classes for the promotion of the study of said subjects, and for the teaching and diffusion of sound views regarding them, among the whole population of Scotland …