Philosopher and lecturer; born of Presbyterian parents at Deer, near Aberdeen, Scotland, Oct. 25, 1840; died at Montreal, Quebec, Sept. 14, 1900. After graduating from Aberdeen University (1860) he successively held the positions of rector of the Grammar School of Old Aberdeen, teacher and professor in various places in England, Scotland, and American. He traveled extensively, and became a proficient linguist, acquiring a knowledge of French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Latin, and Arabic. His ideal was to popularize knowledge among the masses, and with this end in view he founded the London Fabian Society, but lost interest in it when it drifted into socialism. His interest in St. Thomas Aquinas secured for him an invitation from the pope to proceed to Italy and assist in the preface to a new Vatican edition of the saint's works. He organized the Collegiate Institute of Canada and the Glenmore School for Culture Sciences at Keene in the Adirondack Mountains. Davidson's most successful work was in connection with the Educational Alliance in New York, where he attained wide popularity by a series of lectures on sociology. A special class was formed for Jewish young men and women, whom he introduced to the great writers on sociology and their problems. He aimed at founding among them what he called a "Breadwinners' College," but his work was cut short by his untimely death. His pupils have continued the classes, and annually honor his memory.
Among Davidson's many works are: "Fragments of Parmenides" (1869), and "The Parthenon Frieze and Other Essays" (1882). He introduced to English readers the philosophical system of Antonio Rosmini-Serbati, most of whose works he translated.
- Appleton's Annual Cyclopedia, 1900. p. 57;
- International Journal of Ethics, xi. 440;
- Who's Who in-America, 1900;
- American Hebrew, lxvii. 514, 585.