John Clerk of Eldin

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John Clerk, of Eldin

Birthdate: (83)
Death: May 10, 1812 (83)
eldin, Scotland
Immediate Family:

Son of Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, 2nd baronet and Janet Clerk
Husband of Susannah Clerk
Father of John Clerk, Lord Eldin and William Clerk
Brother of Sir James Clerk of Penicuik, 3rd baronet; Henry Clerk; Anne Clerk; Betty Clerk; Sir George Clerk-Maxwell of Penicuik, 4th baronet and 10 others
Half brother of William Clerk and John Clerk

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About John Clerk of Eldin

Sir George Clerk Maxwell was a Commissioner of Customs, and a trustee for the. improvement of the fisheries and manufactures of Scotland. His brother, John Clerk of Eldin, was the author of the well-known work on Naval Tactics. He was the father of John Clerk, a distinguished lawyer in Edinburgh, afterwards Lord Eldin, a Lord of Session.


The following account of Mr. Clerk of Eldin is from the above-mentioned biographical notice of Dr. James Hutton :

"Mr. Clerk of Eldin was another friend with whom, in the formation of his theory, Dr. Hutton maintained a constant communication. Mr. Clerk, perhaps from the extensive property which his family had in the coal-mines near Edinburgh, was early interested in the pursuit of mineralogy. His inquiries, however, were never confined to the objects which mere situation might point out, and through his whole life has been much more directed by the irresistible impulse of genius, than by the action of external circumstances. Though not bred to the sea, he is well known to have studied the principles of naval war with unexampled success; and, though not exercising the profession of arms, he has viewed every country through which he has passed with the eye of a soldier as well as a geologist. The interest he took in studying the surface no less than the interior of the earth; his extensive information in most branches of natural history; a mind of great resource and great readiness of invention; made him to Dr. Hutton an invaluable friend and coadjutor. It cannot be doubted that, in many parts, the system of the latter has had great obligations to the ingenuity of the former, though the unreserved intercourse of friendship, and the adjustments produced by mutual suggestion, might render those parts undistinguishable, even by the authors themselves. Mr. Clerk's pencil was ever at the command of his friend, and has certainly rendered him most essential service."

In another place the same writer says :—

"Some excellent drawings were made by Mr. Clerk, whose pencil is not less valuable in the sciences than in the arts."

John Clerk, Esq., of Eldin, fifth son of Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, and brother of Sir George, the grandfather of John Clerk Maxwell, was the author of certain suggestions on Naval Tactics, which had the credit of contributing to the victory gained over the French by Lord Eodney's fleet off Dominique in 1782. It is fair to add that Sir C. Douglas claimed to have independently hit on the new method of "breaking the enemy's line." But John Clerk never relinquished his pretensions to the merit of the discovery, and his book on Naval Tactics in the edition of 1804 1 is a thick octavo volume, with many woodcut illustrations and diagrams. He used to sail his mimic navies, trying various combinations with them, on the fish-ponds at Penicuik....

Source: The life of James Clerk Maxwell:with a selection from his correspondence and occasional writings and a sketch of his contributions to science (Google eBook) By Lewis Campbell, William Garnett Macmillan, 1882

From p. 16..

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John Clerk of Eldin's Timeline

December 10, 1728
April 1757
Age 28
May 10, 1812
Age 83