Lyon Playfair, 1st Baron Playfair

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Lyon Playfair, 1st Baron Playfair

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Meerut, Bengal, India
Death: Died in London, England
Place of Burial: St. Andrews, Scotland
Immediate Family:

Son of George Playfair and Janet (Jessie) Ross
Husband of Margaret Eliza, Baroness Playfair
Father of Jessie Anne Stewart and Brigadier General George James Playfair, 2nd Baron Playfair
Brother of Lt.-Col. Sir Robert Lambert Playfair, KCMG and Dr William Smoult Playfair

Managed by: DAVID ARTHUR BEWES
Last Updated:

About Lyon Playfair, 1st Baron Playfair

	The Playfair family originated in the Carse of Gowrie, Perthshire, around Errol, St Madoes and Kinfauns. They seem to have been tenant farmers or tradesmen until the eighteenth century when they diversified into the church and other professions as well as acquiring land in Bendochy, Coupar Angus, Perthshire.

Lyon, 1st Baron Playfair of St Andrews PC, GCB, LLD, FRS (1818-1898), second son of surgeon general George Playfair and elder brother of Sir Robert Lamber Playfair. Lyon Playfair's remarkable career combined devotion to science with a rare dedication to public welfare. He was educated at the University of St Andrews, studying subsequently under Professor Graham at the Andersonian in Glasgow and at University College, London and then under the renowned German chemist, Liebig at Giessen, attaining a high reputation as a chemist in the process. Whilst honorary professor of chemistry at the Royal Institution in Manchester, he was appointed to a Royal Commission enquiring into the state of health in towns, with special responsibility for Lancashire; following this, over the years, with appointments to commissions inquiring into the condition of Buckingham Palace and Eton College, the most suitable coal for naval use, the Jarrow coal mine disaster, the Irish potato famine of 1845, the herring industry, the control of foot and mouth disease in 1867, Civil Service reform in 1875 and the aged poor in 1893-95. He was special commissioner for organizing the Great Exhibition of 1851, the 1862 Exhibition and the 1867 Paris Exhibition. As joint Permanent Secretary of the Department of Science and Art (1853-8), he helped to establish the Royal College of of Science at South Kensington. Appointed Professor of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh in 1858, he did much to improve teaching standards there, became President of the Chemical Society and, in 1868, Liberal member of parliament for the newly created Scottish University seat of St Andrews and Edinburgh. In 1873, under Gladstone, he became Postmaster General and a Privy Councillor and, subsequently, Deputy Speaker and chairman of the Ways and Means committee (1880-3). About to lose his Scottish parliamentary seat to the Tory candidate in 1885, he transferred to a radical, working class constituency of South Leeds which he held until his elevation to the peerage as Baron Playfair of St Andrews in 1892. He remained much involved in public life and acted as conciliator in the dispute between Britain and the United States over the Guyana-Venezuerla border in 1895-6. He was appointed a Gentleman Usher to Prince Albert in 1851, made Lord in Waiting to Queen Victoria in 1895 and appointed GCB.

Biographical Summary

Playfair, Baron Playfair, Lyon. 21/05/1818-29/05/1898. Ref: 1212. Male.

  • Titles and British Honours: 1st Baron Playfair of St. Andrews (1892), CB(1851), KCB (1883), GCB (1895).
  • Place of Birth: Meerut, Bengal, India.
  • Place of Death: Onslow Gardens, London.
  • Place of interment: Cathedral Cemy. St. Andrews.
  • Profession: Chemist, Politician.
  • Appointments Held: Prof 1843, Chemistry, Roy Institution, Manchester; Chemist 1845, H M Geological Survey & Prof,Chemistry,School of Mines; Secy for Science 1853-8, Dept of Science & Art; Prof 1858-69, Chemistry, Edinburgh Univ; MP Universities 1868-85, S Leeds 1885-92.
  • Schools and Tutors: St Andrews Parish School, Fife.
  • Undergraduate Studies: St Andrews University,Medicine at Anderson's College, Glasgow, Edinburgh University, University College, London.
  • Postgraduate Studies: Ph.D (Giessen).
  • Marital Status: Married 1st. 1846 Marjory Eliza Oakes d.1855. 2nd. 1857 Jean Ann Millington d. 1877, 3rd. 1878 Edith Russell.
  • Mother: Janet Ross 1795-1862.
  • Father: George Playfair 1782-1846, Inspector General of Hospitals, East India Company.
  • Other Family: Grandson of James Playfair FRSE 1738-1819.
  • References: DNB Supplement 3, 1901, 270-2; Proc Roy Soc Edinb, 22, 1897-9, 720-1; Proc Roy Soc, 64, 1899, ixxi, signed ACB; C.Rogers " Four Perthshire Families" Edinburgh 1887, 67-70; A Boyle, Scotland's Cultural Heritage, 5, 1984; Who Was Who 1; W P Anderson 1931,719.
  • Memberships: FRS (1848), FCS (President 1857-9).
  • Date of Election: 03/01/1859.
  • Proposers: James David Forbes (Billet 6/12/1858, 20/12/1858).
  • Service to the RSE: Secretary (Ordinary Meetings) 1859-64, Vice-President 1864-70.
  • Fellow Type: OF.

SOURCE: Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Biographical index of former fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1783-2002: Biographical Index. II. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. page 741

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Lyon Playfair, 1st Baron Playfair's Timeline

1818
May 21, 1818
Meerut, Bengal, India
1847
July 8, 1847
Age 29
1849
March 31, 1849
Age 30
1898
May 29, 1898
Age 80
London, England
????
St. Andrews, Scotland