GEORGE ADAM SMITH
THE Professor of Old Testament Language, Literature, and Theology in the United Free Church College, Glasgow, was born at Calcutta in 1856. His father, Dr.George Smith, C.I.E., was then Principal of Doveton College and afterwards editor of the Friend of India, the leading English journal in the Dependency, till he left in 1874, His mother was a daughter of Robert Adam, and from him he takes his middle name, He was eldest of a family of ten, of whom three brothers are still in India, one being Major Dunlop Smith, C.I.E., now Private Secretary to the Viceroy. Brought up by two aunts in Leith, he attended the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and Edinburgh University, where he graduated M.A. in 1875, and he studied at the New College for the ministry of the Free Church. He also studied for a time at Tübingen and Leipzig Universities, at the latter of which Professor Harnack was one of his teachers. When his college course was over he spent the winter of 1879-80 in Egypt and Palestine, studying Semitic languages, and on a walk and ride through the latter country, in which he gained the knowledge on which his "Historical Geography of the Holy Land" is based.
After acting for a few months as assistant to the Rev. John Fraser of the West Free Church, Brechin, he was appointed to conduct the duties of Professor Robertson Smith's Chair in Aberdeen Free Church College, while its incumbent was suspended from teaching by the General Assembly. This post he held for two years till another professor was appointed.
In 1882 he was ordained to the ministry of Queen's Cross Church, Aberdeen. This was a new charge. When he was ordained it numbered eighty communicants, and when he left, ten years later, it had 730. The increase, he averred, was "largely owing to the increase of population in the district." A great deal of the work he has since published had its beginnings as Sunday evening lectures in Queen's Cross. The congregation was composed of all classes, and included a large number of students and several professors. He was called to be colleague to Dr. Whyte of St. George's Free Church, Edinburgh, in 1891, but refused, as he had promised to stay with the Queen's Cross congregation till the debt of £11,000 with which it had started was cleared. The debt was fully subscribed for in 1892, and in that year he was elected by the General Assembly to the Chair at Glasgow, which he has since occupied.
Since 1892 Professor Smith has also acted as Moderator of Broomielaw Church and as Superintendent of the Free Church College Mission there. He has been Chairman also of the Glasgow Lecture Association and of the Scottish Council for Women's Trades. Under his chairmanship this latter association has made investigations into the conditions of work among assistants in shops, laundries, and other women's trades, and especially into the conditions of home work. It succeeded in passing into law its Bill for seats for shop assistants, and placed another Bill before Parliament for regulating work at home. It has assisted in a number of trade disputes, has organised several departments of women's work, and has been recognised by the Trades Union Congress of Scotland as the institution for looking after the interests of working women throughout the country.
Professor Smith made a second journey to the Holy Land in 1891, visiting especially the country east of the Jordan, when he had the good fortune to discover a number of Greek inscriptions. Ten years later he took out to the same region a party of his students and some ministers, along with Mr. Arthur Hart, B.A. On this occasion was discovered a very important monument of Seti I., Pharaoh of Egypt circa 1950 B.C., which has attracted a great deal of attention among scholars. Towards the end of 1903 he was sent to India for health reasons, and on his return he again visited Palestine, chiefly the country of Moab, where he recovered a large number of place-names.
In 1888 he published his first volume, on "Isaiah i.-xxxix.," and followed it two years later with another on "Isaiah xl.-lxvi." In 1894 appeared his "Historical Geography of the Holy Land." Like the previous works this has passed through many editions, and is recognised as a text-book in the schools in Oxford. Among his other volumes may be noted: "The Book of Isaiah (2 vols.), 1888-90; "The Preaching of the Old Testament to the Age," 1893; "The Twelve Prophets" (2 vols.), 1896-97; "The Life of Henry Drummond," 1898, now in its seventh edition; and "Sermons Expository and Practical," 1904. Of these the "Geography," the volumes on Isaiah, and the two on the Twelve Prophets have been well received in Germany, and his "Life of Henry Drummond" has been translated into German. His most recent production is his monumental work, "Jerusalem: The Topography, Economics, and History, from the Earliest Times to A.D. 70."
Professor Smith has thrice visited America to lecture, on the invitation of several universities there. In 1896 he delivered the Percy Turnbull lectures on Poetry at the John Hopkins University, Baltimore, taking "Hebrew Poetry" for his subject; and at the same time he was Convocation Orator at Chicago University. In 1899 he delivered the Lyman Beecher lectures on Preaching before Yale University, and the Haskell Lectures before Chicago University, and in 1903 he lectured before several universities. In 1899 he was called to be Principal of the Manitoba College at Winnipeg, and he has had the offer of two chairs in universities in the United States. In this country he was Jowett Lecturer in 1900 (a lectureship on the history of religion, founded in 1898 in memory of Dr. Jowett, of Balliol); and in 1902 he delivered a course of four lectures on Jeremiah under the auspices of Manchester Free Church Council, the Dean and Chapter of Manchester granting the use of the Cathedral for the lectures. He also in 1898 and 1899 continued in Edinburgh the Students' Sunday Evening Meetings which had been started by Professor Drummond.
Perhaps the most exciting episode in his career was his arraignment for heresy before the United Free Church Assembly in 1902. Complaint was made to the College Committee regarding his volume on "The Preaching of the Old Testament and Modern Criticism," his Yale lectures of 1899. After an agitation lasting through the winter of 1901-2 the General Assembly resolved by more than two votes to one to take no further action in the matter. The Professor also shared in the more recent troubles entailed by the decision of the House of Lords that the property of the Free Church belonged to the minority who did not unite with the United Presbyterian Church.
He holds the degree of D.D., from the universities of Edinburgh, Yale, and Dublin, and of LL.D. from those of Aberdeen and the Western Reserve of Cleveland, Ohio. He was also the first recipient in 1909, at the hands of the Society for Biblical Study in England, of the medal given by Sir Thomas Dyke Acland for eminent services in Biblical research.
In 1889 he married Lilian, daughter of Sir George Buchanan, M.D., F.R.S., Medical Officer of the Local Government Board, and head of the Public Health Department of England.
Index of Glasgow Men (1909)