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The Scottish Nation

GLENIE, or GLENNIE, JAMES, an eminent mathematician, born in Fifeshire in 1750, was the son of an officer in the army. At the university of St. Andrews he distinguished himself by his proficiency in the mathematics; and in 1769 obtained two prizes. Being originally destined for the ministry, he entered the divinity class, and soon became a keen polemic and an able theologian. He afterwards turned his thoughts towards the army; and through the influence of the professors of St. Andrews, and that of the earl of Kinnoul, chancellor of the university, he was nominated by Lord Adam Gordon a cadet of artillery at Woolwich. He obtained a commission; and at the opening of the war with America in 1775, went out to New York, as lieutenant of artillery, with the troops ordered to embark for that country. There he distinguished himself so much under colonel, afterwards general, St. Leger, that on the arrival of the Marquis Townshend, he was, without any solicitation on his part, transferred from the artillery to the engineers, which circumstance, with the reasons annexed, was duly notified in the London Gazette.

      In 1779 Mr. Glenie was nominated one of the thirty practitioner engineers, and promoted to be second, and soon after first, lieutenant. Notwithstanding the harassing duties in which he was engaged, his zeal for science led him at this time to write a variety of important papers on the most abstruse subjects, which were transmitted to his friend and correspondent the Baron Maseres, and read before the Royal Society, when he was elected a member, like Dr. Franklin, without the payment of the usual fees. On his return to England, he married Mary Anne Locke, a daughter of the store-keeper at Portsmouth, by whom he had three children.

      In 1783 the duke of Richmond succeeded Glenie’s patron, the Marquis Townshend, in the master-generalship f the ordnance. To prevent such a national misfortune as had happened in 1779, when the navy of England was obliged to take refuge in the Bristol Channel from the combined fleets of France and Spain, which had menaced the dockyard of Plymouth, and insulted the whole coast, his grace had conceived the romantic idea of fortifying all our naval arsenals, and strengthening every important maritime station, instead of increasing the navy, and creating a new nursery for our seamen. This absurd scheme had met with the approbation of several officers and engineers; and, from Mr. Glenie’s high scientific reputation, the duke was desirous of obtaining his sanction to the plan. He accordingly consulted him on the subject, when he unhesitatingly declared the scheme extravagant and impracticable, and advised his grace to abandon it altogether. At the request of Mr. Courtenay, the secretary fo the Marquis Townshend, at whose house Mr. Glenie was residing for a few days, the latter was induced to write his famous pamphlet against it, entitled ‘A Short Essay;’ which was no sooner published than it occupied exclusively the attention of all parties. In this celebrated publication, which passed through several editions, he demonstrated that extended lines produce prolonged weakness, not strength; and that the troops cooped up within the proposed fortifications would be far more formidable, as an active and moveable force, against an invading enemy, than confined in their redoubts. He also showed, by a correct and careful estimate, that the sum necessary for the execution of the duke’s scheme, being no less than forty or fifty millions, would exceed the whole capital required for building a new and complete fleet, superior to that of any nation on earth. The duke published an unsatisfactory reply to Mr. Glenie’s pamphlet; and his proposal was soon after negatived in parliament.

      Being now deprived of all hopes of promotion, and treated with neglect by his superiors, Mr. Glenie, resigning his commission, emigrated with his wife and children to New Brunswick, where he purchased a large tract of land, and was elected a representative to the House of Assembly. Soon after he became a contractor for ship timber and masts for government, but both he and his partner, who is said to have been possessed of considerable wealth, were ruined by the speculation. Compelled to return to England, he obtained an introduction to the earl of Chatham, then master-general of the Ordnance, who, not being able to employ him, retained him as engineer extraordinary. By his recommendation, however, Glenie was soon afterwards appointed by the East India Company instructor of the cadets at the establishment formed for its young artillery officers, with a salary and emoluments amounting to about £400 per annum. Unfortunately for him, he was one of the witnesses summoned in the famous trial in which the duke of York and Mrs. Clarke were concerned, and his evidence having given offence to his royal highness, he was soon afterwards dismissed from his situation.

      In November 1812, Mr. Glenie was employed by a gentleman who had been a member of parliament, to go out to Copenhagen to negociate for him the purchase of a large plantation in Denmark. But having made no specific agreement with his employer, he never received any remuneration for his trouble. After this he endeavoured to support himself by taking a few mathematical pupils, but did not meet with much success. He died of apoplexy, November 23, 1817, in his 67th year. Among other contributions made by Mr. Glenie to the ‘Transactions’ of the Royal Society, was a demonstration of Dr. Matthew Stewart’s “42d Proposition, or 39th Theorem,” which had remained without solution, and puzzled the learned during a period of 65 years; and also his celebrated paper, sent in 1811, on ‘The Squaring of the Circle,’ in which he demonstrates the impossibility of it, a question which is supposed to have engaged the attention, and to have eluded the research of the illustrious Newton.

      He was the author of,

      History of Gunnery; with a new Method of deriving the Theory of Projectiles in vacuo, from the properties of the Square and Rhombus. Edin. 1776, 8vo.

      The Doctrine of Universal Comparison, or General Proportion. Lond. 1789, 4to.

      The Antecedental Calculus, or a Geometrical Method of Reasoning without any consideration of motion or velocity, applicable to every purpose to which Fluxious have been or can be applied; with the Geometrical Principles of Increments. Lond. 1793, 4to.

      Observations on Construction. 1793, 8vo.

      Observations on the Duke of Richmond’s extensive Plans of Fortification; and the new Works he has been carrying on since these were set aside by the House of Commons, in 1786. Including the short Essay which chiefly occasioned the famous debate and division in the House of Commons, on his Grace’s projected Works for Portsmouth and Plymouth, that was determined by the casting vote of Mr. Speaker Cornwall. London, 1805, 8vo.

      Observations on the Defence of Great Britain; and its principal Dock-yards. 1807, 8vo.

      On te Division of Right Lines, Surfaces, and Solids. Phil. Trans. 1776, Abr. Xiii. 729.

      The General Mathematical Laws which regulate and extend Proportion Universally; or, a Method of Comparing Magnitudes of any kind together, in all the possible degrees of Increase and Decrease. Ibid. xiv. 183. 1777.

      On the Principles of the Antecedental Calculus. Trans. Soc. Edin. 1796. vol. Iv. 65.

      On the Circle. Ibid. 1812. vol. vi. 21.

      On a Boy born Blind and Deaf. Ibid. 1815, vol. vii. 1.

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