John Napier, the 8th laird of Merchiston, can be described as one of Scotland's greatest mathematical minds. His work on logarithms laid the foundations for the future's great discoveries, for instance it is inconceivable that Newton could have made his contributions to science without Napier's concept of logarithms.
John Napier was born in 1550, in the Tower of Merchiston which is now the centre of Napier University's Merchiston campus. Napier showed potential at an early age and his uncle the Bishop of Orkney wrote a letter to Archibald Napier, John Napier's father, advising him to send John to school abroad which he did.
He published his Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descripto ( Description of the wonderful canon of logarithms) in 1614. Which explained the nature of logarithms and gave tables for their use.
By his peers he was known as Marvellous Merchiston, relating both to his birthplace and his innovations in many fields. For instance his investigations into multiplication resulted in the Rabdologiae, which explained the easiest procedures for multiplying.
Napier had a total of twelve children, a boy and a girl to his first wife and five boys and five girls to his second wife. He died in 1617 and was buried at St. Cuthbert's Church in Edinburgh.
The logarithms we use today are different from those Napier first published as his original tables were not to any particular base. In 1617, Henry Briggs (an English mathematician) talked to Napier about making the tables to base 10 and as Napier was too unwell to make the calculations himself, Briggs did the calculations and introduced the common logarithm
For more information
The Clan Napier
Rules of Logarithms Examples of Logarithms
Answers to Examples Uses of Logarithms Chemical uses of Logarithms