When adherents of a pre-World War One nudist craze in Germany decided to establish a club, their decision to name it after an 18th century Scottish judge seemed the most natural thing in the world. Berlin’s Monboddo Bund remains one of the more unusual salutes to the Scottish judiciary but is testament to Lord Monboddo’s pioneering passion for what he described as ‘air-bathing’ in the pursuit of harmony between body and mind.
There is a distinct possibility, however, that Monboddo’s habit of parading naked before his open house windows might today result in the judge’s appearance in the dock rather than on the bench – but at the time it was taken as further evidence of his eccentric genius.
A celebrated polymath, James Burnett was born in 1714 at Monboddo House in Kincardineshire and is quite possibly the brainiest boy ever to have attended Laurencekirk Primary School. A pioneering anthropologist, he was a precursive proponent of the Darwinian theory of evolution while his six volume Of the Origin and Progress of Language is still considered one of the cornerstones of modern comparative historical linguistics. This revolutionary study of the structure of obscure languages in lands colonised by European powers was one of the first to recognise the sophistication of native tongues.
Always ahead of his time, Monboddo studied feral children and was the first to declare that they were not monsters as popularly believed, but abandoned children capable of learning.
Monboddo was not afraid to raise eyebrows and a few of his judicial colleagues in stuffy Presbyterian Edinburgh were scandalised when he co-founded the Canongate Theatre where he was friendly with one of the actors, David Hume – whom he had known when the philosopher was keeper of the Advocates Library.
Source: Scottish Legal News
Original publication 6 December, 2019
Posted on NatCorn 22nd December 2019
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