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(MAJOR, MAIR; also called JOANNES MAJORIS and HADDINGTONUS SCOTUS)
A Scotch philosopher and historian, b. at Gleghornie near Haddington, 1496; d. at St. Andrew's, 1550. He studied at Oxford, Cambridge, and Paris, where he was graduated as master of arts in the College of St. Barbe in 1494 and as doctor of theology in the College of Montaigu in 1505. He spent the greater part of his remaining life as professor of logic and theology; from 1505-18 at the University of Paris, from 1518-23 at the University of Glasgow, from 1523-5 at the University of St. Andrew's, and from 1525-1530 again at Paris. In 1530 he returned to St. Andrew's and was made provost of St. Salvator's College, a position which he occupied until his death. One of the greatest scholastic philosophers of his times, he had among his pupils the future Scotch reformers John Knox, Patrick Hamilton, and George Buchanan. In philosophy he was the chief exponent of the nominalistic or terministic tendency which was then prevalent at the University of Paris, while, as a canonist, he held that the chief ecclesiastical authority does not reside in the pope but in the whole Church. In like manner he held that the source of civil authority lies with the people who transfer it to the ruler and can wrest it from him, even by force, if necessary. He remained a Catholic until his death, though in 1549 he advocated a national Church for Scotland. His numerous literary productions were all written in Latin. His chief work, "Historia majoris Britannae, tam Angliae quam Scotiae" (Paris, 1521 and Edinburgh, 1740), translated into English for the first time by Archibald Constable, "History of the Greater Britain, both England and Scotland" (Edinburgh, 1892), is written in barbarous Latin, but truthfully and faithfully portrays the author's vigour and spirit of independence. His other works are mostly philosophical, viz: a commentary on Peter Lombard's Books of Sentences (Paris, 1508), "Introductorium" or a commentary on Aristotle's dialectics (Paris, 1508), the lectures which he delivered on logic in the College of Montaigu (Lyons, 1516), commentaries on Aristotle's physical and ethical writings (Paris, 1526), "Quaestiones logicales" (Paris, 1528), a commentary on the four Gospels (Paris, 1529). He was also the first to edit the so-called "Reportia Parisiensia" of Duns Scotus (Paris, 1517-8).
MACKAY, Life of John Major, prefixed to Constable's tr. of Mayor's History (Edinburgh, 1892). The preceding work contains also a complete list of works written by Major, and an estimate of them by the translator; BROWN, George Buchanan, Humanist and Reformer (Edinburgh, 1890), 38-41; LAW, John Major in Scottish Review, July 1892.