David Ure Scotland

Biography of David Ure

David Ure graduated MA from the University in 1776. He is best known for his pioneering role in the early development of palaeontology in Scotland.

Ure was born in Glasgow, and baptised on 30 March 1749. He was the eldest of Patrick and Isabell Ure’s ten children. Despite his relatively humble origins, he attended grammar school and then matriculated at the University in 1770.

Ure supported his studies through working on the side, likely as a weaver; this may explain why he took six years to graduate despite being remembered as a diligent student. Ure’s interest in natural sciences developed from these years, nurtured in particular by John Anderson. Anderson was Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University, and known for his reforming politics; Ure would presumably have agreed with Anderson’s support for education of the artisan classes.

Financial considerations, however, re-directed him first to teaching and then to the ministry. In 1783 Ure became assistant minister in the parish of East Kilbride " a rural parish that required him to travel frequently between settlements. It was on these journeys that Ure accumulated his collection of local fossil specimens.

Ure’s 1793 History of Rutherglen and East Kilbride is of use to local historians, but his chapter on the area’s natural history has wider significance. Ure attempted to classify his samples, showing an awareness that the environment at the time of deposition could have been wildly different from the environment of the current day. His accompanying illustrations include the first illustration and description of British fossil ostracods.

In his will Professor John Anderson suggested Ure as the first Professor of Natural History for Anderson’s Institution, which was established after Professor Anderson’s death in 1796. However, it is not known whether David Ure was aware of this; in the same year Ure moved to Uphall to became the minister there.

David Ure died of dropsy on 28 March 1798, aged 49. His surviving fossil samples are held by the Hunterian Museum, and by Glasgow Museums.


Printed Materials

  • Burns, James H. 'From Enquiry to Improvement: David Ure (1749-1798)', The Scottish Historical Review LXXXVII, 2: No. 224 (2008)


David Ure
Born 30 March 1749.
Died 28 March 1798.
GU Degree: MA, 1776;
University Link: Graduate
Occupation categories: Minister of the Church of Scotland; ministers; palaeontologists
English snippet: Graduate and pioneer of palaeontology in Scotland
Record last updated: 29th Aug 2017

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