Thomas Dick lived from 24 November 1774 to 29 July 1857. He was a church minister, a scientist, an astronomer and a philosopher. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Thomas Dick was born in Dundee. His father was Mungo Dick, who manufactured linen. Both his parents were devout members of the Presbyterian United Secession Church of Scotland. Young Thomas's parents wanted him to train to take over his father's business, but at the age of 9 he saw a meteor shower by chance, and a passion for astronomy was born. He read up on it whenever he could, and ground a pair of spectacle lenses to make his own telescope.
Dick went on to become a schoolmaster before, in 1794, studying theology and philosophy at the University of Edinburgh where a fellow student was Robert Jameson. He gained his license to preach in 1801 and spent ten years as a teacher at the Secession School in Methven, west of Perth. He then taught at a school in Perth for a further ten years. In 1823 he published his The Christian Philosopher, or the Connexion of Science and Philosophy with Religion. This proved highly successful, allowing many people to feel they had "squared the circle" between the philosophical and scientific advances of the Scottish Enlightenment and the strong moral and religious ethos of the early 1800s. The book covered many topics, and had a lasting influence despite not being correct in every detail: nowhere more so than in his calculation that the Solar System had 21,891,974,404,480 (nearly 22 trillion) inhabitants.
In 1827 Dick gave up teaching to concentrate on his writing. He purchased a cottage overlooking the River Tay at Broughty Ferry and equipped it with an observatory and a library. He went on to write a series of works which explored aspects of science, religion and philosophy, with a number becoming best sellers in the UK and the USA, though never making him much money. He became a member of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1852, and was awarded an honourary degree by Union College in New York. Thomas Dick died in 1857. Many believe that his books made a genuine and lasting contribution to allowing science and spirituality to coexist in the modern world. The missionary David Livingstone said that Philosophy of a Future State inspired him more than any other book except the Bible.