History of Napier

Ever wonder how the name Napier in Edinburgh Napier University? Ever wonder about the old tower on Merchiston Campus? Or the statue placed by the tower? Well, wonder no more.  We are going to look at the History of Napier.

John Napier

John Napier, eighth Laird of Merchiston, was born in Merchiston Tower in Edinburgh in 1550. He died in Merchiston Tower in 1617, the very tower that stands in the centre of Merchiston Campus.

John Napier is most ‘famous for his contributions to the world of Mathematics. His invention of logarithms decoded previously unexplored complexities within mathematics and inspired contemporaries, as well as future generations, to pursue and realise their own academic achievements in many fields of scientific inquiry. His later introduction of a series of calculating devices ensured mathematics was applied to common use and enabled the development of entrepreneurialism’ (Napier.ac.uk/ourHistory)

Today, logarithms are an internal part of Science, Engineering and Computing.

Napier’s dedication to the Protestant Faith is well-documented and it is suggested by some historians that he considered his book Plaine Discovery of the Whole Revelation of St John as his finest work.  It is his interpretation of the Protestant Christian Bible’s Book Revelation.  A time of change in Scotland including the dethronement of Mary, Queen of Scots and the coronation of James VI.

John Napier also had a number of other inventions including Machines of War and Archimedes Screw (one of the earliest hydraulic machines) and Common Salts.

John Napier died in 1617, nearly 350 years later, Edinburgh Napier University began it’s journey.

Edinburgh Napier University

Our foundations go all the way back to the 16th century. But in the last five decades has seen us grow into a globally renowned institution. Opened our doors as Napier Technical College in 1964, welcoming 800 students. To now, home to over 19500 students from over 140 countries. In 1992, Napier is officially inaugurated as a University. Lord James Douglas Hamilton and Principal William Turmeau unveil the new University sign at Merchiston.

In 2024, Edinburgh Napier wins the 2024 Higher Educational Institution of the Year.

At Edinburgh Napier University, we believe in the importance of making a difference. While we’ve risen in rankings and grown in scope over the years, we’ve stayed true to our heritage as an applied technical institution. For our students and researchers, this means that learning and discovery don’t just take place in the lab or the classroom, it happen in the real world.

We’ve come a long way from 1550.

A timetable of Edinburgh Napier University.

Read about our Heritage