Born in Banffshire 25th April 1710 of poor parents. James Ferguson is said to have had no education other than learning to read. During a period spent working for a farmer he discovered he had an aptitude for mathematics and studied the stars whilst looking after the sheep. He showed a talent for drawing and was sent by friends to study in Edinburgh.
Drawing miniatures in Indian ink he worked in Edinburgh and London and became known as 'Ferguson the astronomer'. He advertised that he drew miniature portraits in 'China ink' for 12/6 and 15/- in 1752. The following notice appeared in the Daily Advertiser 27th Nov 1746, 'Mr Ferguson limner in China ink, has removed from Compton Street to the White Perriwig next door to the Golden Ball in Gt. Pultney St. near Golden Sq. where he draws pictures as usual for nine shillings or goes abroad to do them for 1/2 guinea'.
He died in London 16th Nov 1776. Several miniatures by him were in the Wellesley sale at Sotheby's in 1920. His works are rather precise and neatly executed; they are not, (as far as the author is aware), ever signed and are not always recognised. Examples of his work are in the V & A Museum in London.