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Alexander Ross (writer)

Alexander Ross
Alexander Ross, 1653 engraving by Pierre Lombart.
Born c. 1590
Aberdeen, Scotland
Died 1654 (aged 63–64)
Bramshill, Hampshire, England
Occupation Clergyman, translator
Nationality Scottish
Alma mater King's College, Aberdeen
Notable works The Alcoran of Mahomet (the Qur'an), translated into English

Alexander Ross (c. 1590–1654) was a prolific Scottish writer and controversialist. He was Chaplain-in-Ordinary to Charles I.[1]


  • Life 1
  • Works 2
  • Works 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Ross was born in Aberdeen, and entered King's College, Aberdeen, in 1604. About 1616 he succeeded Thomas Parker in the mastership of the free school at Southampton, an appointment which he owed to Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford. By 1622 he had been appointed, through William Laud's influence, one of Charles I's chaplains, and in that year appeared The First and Second Book of Questions and Answers upon the Book of Genesis, by Alexander Ross of Aberdeen, preacher at St. Mary's, near Southampton, and one of his Majesty's Chaplains. He was vicar of St. Mary's Church, Carisbrooke in the Isle of Wight from 1634 to his death; he left Southampton in 1642.

In Pansebeia, Ross gave a list of his books, past and to come. He died in 1654 at Bramshill House in Hampshire, where he was living with Sir Andrew Henley, and in the neighbouring Eversley church there are two tablets to his memory. Ross left many legacies, and his books were left to his friend Henley, an executor and guardian to a nephew, William Ross.

Alexander Ross, 1648 engraving by William Faithorne.

Among Ross's friends and patrons were Lewis Watson, 1st Baron Rockingham, John Tufton, 2nd Earl of Thanet, Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel, and John Evelyn. His correspondence with Henry Oxenden, in English and Latin, is in the British Museum.

He is not the Alexander Ross of the Aberdeen doctors, who remained in Scotland and died in 1639.


One of Ross's most significant accomplishments, published in 1649, the same year as the beheading of the king, was his complete translation of the Qur'an into English.[2] Although he knew no Arabic and only poorly translated L'Alcoran de Mahomet, the 1647 French translation of Du Ryer, his translation was the first in English, and his influence faintly lingers in latter-day translations down to the present.

Richard Westfall calls him "the vigilant watchdog of conservatism and orthodoxy".[3] He was concerned to defend Aristotle and repel the Copernican theory, as it gained ground. In 1634 he published a work on the immobility of the earth, attacking Nathanael Carpenter and Philip Landsberg.[4] He became involved in a debate with John Wilkins and Libert Froidmond, around the beliefs of Christopher Clavius.[5][6] He attacked Thomas Browne (defending, for instance, the beliefs that crystal is a sort of fossilized ice, and that garlic hinders magnetism),[7] and many other contemporary ideas. In other controversies he took on Sir Kenelm Digby, Thomas Hobbes, and William Harvey.


  • Rerum Judaicarum Libri Duo (1617)
  • Questions and Answers on the First Six Chapters of Genesis (1620)
  • Tonsor ad cutem Rasus (1629)
  • Commentum de Terrae Motu Circulari Refutatus (1634)
  • Virgilii Evangelisantis Christiados Libri xiii (1634), a cento composed entirely from Virgil
  • The New Planet, no Planet, or the Earth no Wandering Star, against Galilaeus and Copernicus, (1640)
  • God's House, or the House of Prayer, vindicated from Profaneness (1642) sermons
  • God's House made a Den of Thieves (1642) sermons
  • Philosophical Touchstone, or Observations on Sir Kenelm Digby's Discourse on the Nature of Bodies and of the Reasonable Soul, and Spinosa's Opinion of the Mortality of the Soul, briefly confuted (1645)
  • Medicus Medicatus, or the Physician's Religion cured (1645)
  • The Picture of the Conscience (1646)
  • Mystagogus Poeticus, or the Muses' Interpreter (1647)
  • The Alcoran of Mahomet: Translated out of Arabique into French by the Sieur Du Ryer, Lord of Malezair, and Resident for the King of France at Alexandria, and Newly Englished for the Satisfaction of All That Desire to Look into Turkish Vanities, to Which is Prefixed the Life of Mahomet, ... with a Needful Caveat, or Admonition, for Those Who Desire to Know What Use May Be Made of, or If There Be Danger in Reading, the Alcoran (1649)
  • Enchiridium Oratorium et Poeticum (1650)
  • Arcana Microcosmi, or the Hid Secrets of Man's Body discovered, in Anatomical Duel between Aristotle and Galen; with a Refutation of Thomas Browne's Vulgar Errors, from Bacon's Natural History, and Hervey's book De Generatione (1651)
    • Web version of the text
  • The History of the World, the Second Part, in six books, being a Continuation of Sir Walter Raleigh's (1652)
  • Πανσεβεια ("Pansebeia"), or View of all the Religions in the World, with the Lives of certain notorious Hereticks (1652)
  • Observations upon Hobbes's Leviathan (1653)
  • Animadversions and Observations upon Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World (1653)
  • Three Decads of Divine Meditations, whereof each one containeth three parts. 1. History. 2. An Allegory. 3. A Prayer. With a Commendation of a Private Country Life.
  • Four Books of Epigrams in Latin Elegiacs
  • Mel Heliconium, or Poetical Honey gathered out of the Weeds of Parnassus
  • Melisomachia
  • Colloquia Plautina
  • Chronology, in English
  • Chymera Pythagorica


  1. ^  
  2. ^ "From scholarship, sailors and sects to the mills and the mosques". The Guardian (Guardian News and Media Limited). 2002-06-18. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  3. ^ Richard S. Westfall, Science and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England (1973), p. 33.
  4. ^ John L. Russell, The Copernican System in Great Britain, p. 230 in Jerzy Dobrzycki (editor), The reception of Copernicus' heliocentric theory (1973).
  5. ^ James M. Lattis, Between Copernicus and Galileo (1994), p. 7.
  6. ^ Grant McColley, The Ross-Wilkins controversy, Annals of Science, 1464-505X, Volume 3, Issue 2, 1938, Pages 153 – 189.
  7. ^ "Arcana Microcosmi, II:18". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 

External links

  • Significant Scots: Alexander Ross
  • David Allan, “‘An Ancient Sage Philosopher’: Alexander Ross and the Defence of Philosophy”, The Seventeenth Century, 17 (2001), 68-93 (PDF)
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