i        Parental Home

    ii       Childhood, first Lessons and Study

    iii     Professorship in Aberdeen and Encyclopaedia Britannica

    iv      The Heresy Trial

    v       Edinburgh and Cambridge

    vi      Last Years

    vii     William Robertson Smith: a Postscript

    viii    Literature and Abbreviations

Legal Notices and Contact






deutsche Version

© Astrid Hess &
Andreas Hess 2006

The William Robertson Smith Website


William Robertson Smith, George Reid, 1877

William Robertson Smith, George Reid, 1877, 
Christ’s College Cambridge


The original stimulus for this website emerged out of a disorganised mass of family documents and pictures in the possession of Robertson Smith’s family descendants in Germany and Canada. The task of systematizing that material eventually uncovered a wealth of information which has subsequently proved to be of value to others who have an interest in numerous aspects of nineteenth century science, religion and literary culture. And for those who simply wish to know more about family life in rural Scotland at that period, we were able to publish the personal memoirs of Robertson Smith’s sister, Alice Thiele Smith in:


Children of the Manse: Growing up in Victorian Aberdeenshire (more...)

Published in 2004 by The Bellfield Press, 4 Bellfield Terrace, Edinburgh, EH15 2BJ, Great Britain. This may be ordered from:

the publisher


Amazon (UK)


Amazon (DE)

or in Germany order directly from:

Astrid Hess



At a more scholarly level, you will also find a link to Dr Gordon Booth’s doctoral thesis:


William Robertson Smith: the Scientific, Literary and Cultural Context: 1866-1881

(University of Aberdeen, 2000)




A further collaborative project by Astrid Hess and Gordon Booth has led to the editing and annotating of Robertson Smith’s early correspondence between 1863 and 1870:


The Early Correspondence of William Robertson Smith

From Student Days to Hebrew Chair: 1863-1870



Both of the above are freely available for downloading, reading or printing from this website.



In addition we would like to point out that there is a Canadian website, Miscellanea Manitobiana, created by John B. Dobson (University of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Ca.) where you will find, amongst other works, several essays dealing in the widest sense with the ancestry and kin of William Robertson Smith together with details of the exceptionally interesting family of his great-grandfather James Robertson, a Congregational minister, who in 1832 emigrated with his numerous family to the New World. Many of the latter’s descendants became writers and are still known in the English speaking world.


The Ancestry of the Rev. Dr. Charles W. Gordon (the novelist Ralph Connor)

 by John Blythe Dobson

 Miscellanea Manitobiana I




Ralph Connor/The Rev. Dr. Charles W. Gordon: The Role of Archives in the Memorialization of a Canadian Literary and Theological Giant

 by John Richthammer

Miscellanea Manitobiana II




From Perthshire to Quebec:

The Story of Rev. James Robertson and his Family;
with notes on three famous descendants,
the writer Margaret M. Robertson,
the scholar William Robertson Smith,
and the novelist Charles Gordon (“Ralph Connor”)

 by Astrid Hess

Miscellanea Manitobiana III



In July 2009 a new biography in English on William Robertson Smith was published


William Robertson Smith
His Life, his Work and his Times

by Bernhard Maier

Editor Mohr Siebeck


Biography William Robertson Smith



Also this online publication of the Encyclopaedia Britannica - 9th and 10th edition - might be of interest:

Encyclopaedia Britannica



The following link leads you to a fine selection of old photos of rural Alford, Keig and other places in the vicinity - included some of the Smith family and Free Church and Manse in near Keig. The Alford Image Library contains more than 1000 pictures of this area of Scotland for you to browse.


Alford, Aberdeenshire - Image Library



Feedback of all kind, whether positive or negative, is welcomed from new and existing contacts, either in relation to the content or as additional information relevant to any of the topics or persons referred to. We have already benefited from valuable new information supplied to us by descendants of Smith’s friends and fellow-students; and we hope that further links of this kind will continue to emerge.


And now enjoy your reading!