Ogilvie was born at Pittensear near Elgin in the north of Scotland, the eldest son of James Ogilvie, laird of the Pittensear estate, and Marjorie Steuart. He died at Aberdeen on 14 February 1719. He was educated at the universities of Aberdeen (MA 1759), Glasgow (1760–1), and Edinburgh (1761–2). At Glasgow he probably heard the lectures of Adam smith and Adam ferguson. Ogilvie was appointed professor of philosophy at Aberdeen in 1764, in succession to Thomas reid (who had gone to Glasgow to replace Adam Smith), but moved to the chair of humanity the next year, continuing in that post until 1817. His most famous student was Sir James Mackintosh, the republican friend of the French Revolution and critic of burke. Ogilvie pursued interests in classics, numismatics and natural history. He founded the university's Natural History Museum, and published a pamphlet advocating the setting up of public libraries. He was involved in attempts at reforming the university by uniting the two colleges in Aberdeen, King's and Marischal. In 1793 Columbia College in New York awarded him an honorary degree (his sympathies for the American cause were known).
From The Biographical Dictionary of British Economists in Oxford Reference.