Robert Gordon of Straloch lived from 14 September 1580 to 18 August 1661. He was a poet, mathematician, antiquary and geographer, primarily remembered for his cartography of Scotland. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Robert Gordon of Straloch was the younger son of Sir John Gordon of Pitlurg. He was educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen, and subsequently at the University of Paris. In 1608 Gordon married Catherine, daughter of Alexander Irvine of Lenturk, and they had nine sons and six daughters together.
Also in 1608 Gordon purchased the estate of Straloch, north of Aberdeen, and in 1619 he inherited the family estate of Pitlurg when his older brother John died without leaving children. The estates gave him the income he needed to pursue his academic interests, and over the following decades he became an eminent cartographer. He also published writings on a range of subjects including the ancient history of Scotland and the Gordon family history.
Such was Gordon's reputation that in 1641, Charles I wrote to him, asking him to carry forward the work undertaken by Timothy Pont in the 1580s and 1590s to map Scotland, verifying and, where necessary, revising his work. Gordon applied himself with enthusiasm, and the work was seen as so important that the Scottish Parliament exempted his son James Gordon from military service so he could assist, and the Church of Scotland wrote to all its clergy asking them to give Gordon every assistance in his task.
The work was completed in 1648 and subsequently published by the Blaeus of Amsterdam, under the title of Theatrum Scotiae. The second edition was published in 1655 and the third in 1662 and even by modern standards the cartography was impressive. Robert Gordon of Straloch died in 1661, being described in an obituary as "One of the most worthy and learned Gentlemen of our Nation". A grandson, also called Robert Gordon, founded the forerunner of Robert Gordon University.