About this artwork

This painting shows John Napier, the eminent mathematician who made one of the greatest advances in the history of mathematics with his discovery of logarithms. He also invented the earliest calculating machine, ‘Napier’s Bones’. However it was for his religious book ‘A Plaine Discovery of the Whole Revelation of St. John’, that he was best known during his lifetime. Born in Edinburgh’s Merchiston area, the ‘Marvellous Merchiston’ as he was known, is shown here seated at an angle with his right hand resting on a book. His importance is remembered with Edinburgh’s Napier University being named after him. This work is a copy of the painting of Napier in the collection of the University of Edinburgh.

  • title: John Napier of Merchiston, 1550 - 1617. Discoverer of logarithms
  • accession number: PG 2228
  • artist: Unknown
  • depicted: John Napier
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • materials: Oil on canvas
  • date created: Dated 1616
  • measurements: 110.70 x 99.50 cm (framed: 135.00 x 124.00 x 7.50cm)
  • credit line: Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund and the Pilgrim Trust 1974
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve