In 1694 he was elected a master in the university of Glasgow - an office that was converted into the professorship of moral philosophy in 1727, when the system of masters was abolished at Glasgow.
In 1817 he became lecturer in chemistry at Glasgow University, and in the following year was appointed to the regius professorship. This chair he retained until his death, which happened on the 2nd of July 1852 at Kilmun, Argyleshire; but from 1841 he was assisted by his nephew and son-in-law ROBERT DINDAS
In 1795 he received the aid of a coadjutor in his professorship, and two years later he lectured for the last time.
His eldest son, Eilhard Ernst Gustav, born at Berlin on the 1st of August 1852, became professor of physics at Erlangen in 1886, and his younger son, Alfred, born at Berlin on the 18th of July 1856, was appointed to the extraordinary professorship of Egyptology at Bonn in 1892.
On the outbreak of the Franco-German War he resigned his professorship and acted for a time as correspondent to The Times in Italy.