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PLAYFAIR, Lyon, 1st Baron Playfair of St Andrews (1818-1898)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0098 B/PLAYFAIR
Held at: Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine
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Full title: PLAYFAIR, Lyon, 1st Baron Playfair of St Andrews (1818-1898)
Date(s): Created 1795-1910
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 7 boxes
Name of creator(s): Playfair | Lyon | 1818-1898 | 1st Baron Playfair | chemist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born Meerut, India, 1818; educated at St Andrew's Scotland; studied chemistry under Thomas Graham at the Andersonian University of Glasgow, University College, London, Liebig's laboratory at Giessen, Germany; awarded PhD at Giessen, 1841; chemical manager of a calico printing works, 1841; honorary Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Insitution, Manchester, 1843; served on Royal Commission on Health of Towns, 1843; research with Bunsen on the chemistry of blast-furnace gases, 1844; Chemist to the Geological Survey, 1845; reported to Sir Robert Peel on the potato crop in Ireland, 1845; Fellow of the Royal Society, 1848; Special Commissioner for the Great Exhibition, 1850; lecturer on Chemistry at the Government School of Mines, 1851; CB, 1851; Joint Secretary of the Science and Art Department of the Board of Trade, 1853; Inspector General of Government Museums and Schools of Science, 1856; President of the Chemical Society, 1857-1859; Professor of Chemistry at Edinburgh University, 1858-1869; Commissioner for the Exhibition of 1851, 1869; Liberal MP for the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews, 1869; Postmaster General in Gladstone's first ministry, 1873-1874; Chairman of Ways and Means, 1880-1883; Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, 1880-1883; awarded KCB, 1883; Honorary Secretary of the 1851 Commission, 1883-1889; MP for South Leeds, 1885; President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1885; Vice-President of the Council, 1886; Charity Commissioner, 1886; created Baron Playfair of St Andrews, 1892; Lord in Waiting to Queen Victoria, 1892; awarded GCB, 1894; member of the Aged Poor Commission, 1894; died Kensington, London, 1898.
Publications: include Collieries. Report on the gases and explosions in collieries with Sir Henry Thomas De la Beche and Warington Smyth [Shannon, Irish University Press, 1969]; Report on the State of Large Towns in Lancashire (W Clowes & Sons, London, 1845); Bunsen and Playfair's Report to the British Association at Cambridge in 1845, on the gases evolved from iron furnaces with reference to the theory of the smelting of iron, etc edited by B H Brough (London, 1903); On the Chemical Properties of Gold (1853); On Primary and Technical Education. Two lectures, etc (Edinburgh, 1870); On the Organisation of a Teaching Profession [1877]; Subjects of Social Welfare (Cassell & Co, London, 1889); The Evolution of University Extension as a part of Popular Education (1894).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Lyon Playfair, 1st Baron Playfair of St Andrews, 1795-1910, comprising general correspondence, 1795, 1840-1910, covering a range of subjects relating to Playfair's scientific and political interests, notably with Prince Albert, 1851-[1853], and via Charles Grey, 1850-1861, concerning the Great Exhibition, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, 1865-1886, Matthew Arnold, 1883, Sir Charles Barry, 1795-1860, Thomas Francis Bayard, concerning 'Venezuela dispute', 1896, Queen Victoria, 1883, and via Sir Arthur John Bigge, 1895-1898, Charles Booth, 1895, Sir David Brewster, concerning lighthouses,1851-1868, Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, concerning their research, 1841-1849, Edwin Chadwick, concerning agriculture and politics, 1855-1899, concerning pensions, Joseph Chamberlain, concerning the Aged Poor Commission, Venezuela, 1894-1899, Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, concerning the 1851 Commission,1882-1896, Sir Robert Christison, concerning vivisection bill, 1867-1876, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1852-1874, Charles Darwin, concerning vivisection bill, 1875, Sir Thomas Henry De La Beche, concerning the Geological Survey, 1842-1852, Sir James Dewar, 1885-1898, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), 1879-1898, Michael Faraday, 1842-1857, William Ewart Gladstone, 1859-1892, Thomas Graham, 1839-1867, Thomas Henry Huxley, 1854-1891, Henry James, 1898, George Granville Leveson-Gower, [1850]-1889, Justus von Liebig, 1841-1873, Joseph Lister, 1876-1898, David Livingstone, including an account of his exploration in Africa, 1861, John Stuart Mill, 1868, Viscount Horatio Nelson to 'Pollard', 1795, Sir Robert Peel, [1842]-1850, letters of condolence to Lady Playfair on the death of Lord Playfair, 1898.

Family correspondence, comprising letters to various correspondents from Playfair, 1854-1898, notably his son George and daughter-in-law; letters from Edith Playfair (third wife), to her step-son, 1898.

Papers relating to diplomas and appointments, 1840-1892, notably appointment as Professor of Chemistry, Edinburgh University, 1858, Charity Commissioner, 1886, Lord-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria, 1892, Privy Councillor, 1873.

Papers relating to orders and decorations, 1851-1898, notably Order of the Bath, Order of the Legion of Honour and Jubilee Medal.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, German, French and Dutch.

System of arrangement:

Arranged in sections as follows; general correspondence (listed alphabetically by correspondent), family correspondence, (alphabetically), diplomas and appointments, orders and decorations.

Conditions governing access:

Researchers wishing to consult the Archives should first contact the College Archivist, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2AZ, for an appointment.

Conditions governing reproduction:

A photocopying service is available at the discretion of the Archivist. Photocopies are supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Archivist.

Finding aids:

A catalogue is available in the reading room of the College Archives.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were presented by Sir Edward Playfair, great nephew of the first Lord Playfair, in 1962. Lord Playfair's medals, including the gold medal from Prince Albert, and decorations were also given to the College.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Papers of Sir Andrew Crombie Ramsay (KGA RAMSAY), letters to Sir Andrew Crombie Ramsay, 1837-1854 (B/RAMSAY) and letters to Thomas Huxley, 1861-1897 (B/HUXLEY), held at Imperial College.

Correspondence and papers, held at Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society; lecture notes, 1862, held at Strathclyde University Archives; correspondence with Charles Babbage, 1851-1890, held at the British Library, Manuscript Collections (reference: Add MSS 37194-99 passim); correspondence with Sir Edwin Chadwick, 1842-1889, held at London University: University College Manuscripts Room (reference: Chadwick papers); correspondence with Sir Henry Cole, 1852-1870, held at the Victoria & Albert Museum, National Art Library; letters to Sir Henry De la Beche, held at the National Museum of Wales; letters to James Forbes, 1859-1873, held at St Andrews University Library; letters to Alexander Campbell Fraser, 1860-1885, held at the National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division (reference: Dep 208); correspondence with William Ewart Gladstone, 1859-1896,held at the British Library, Manuscript Collections (reference: Add MS 44280); letters to Lord Granville, 1853-1867, held at the Public Record Office (reference: PRO30/29); letters to J von Liebig, 1840-1873, held at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek; correspondence with Sir Robert Peel, 1842-1850, held at the British Library, Manuscript Collections (reference: Add MSS 40518-603 passim); letters to Sir Andrew Crombie Ramsay, 1841-1843, held at the National Library of Wales, Department of Manuscripts and Records (reference: NLW MS 11574); miscellaneous correspondence mainly with Lord Rosebery, 1839-1896, held at the National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division (reference: MSS 9813-9814, 10075-10162, 10777 Passim); correspondence with James Young, 1845-82, nd, held at Strathclyde University Archives (reference: T-YOU); letters, held at the Royal Institution of Great Britain; papers relating to involvement with the 1851 Commission, held by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, Imperial College.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Memoirs and Correspondence of Lyon Playfair, first Lord Playfair of St. Andrew Sir Thomas Wemyss Reid

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: British Library On-Line Public Access Catalogue 97; National Register of Archives. Compiled by Julie Tancell as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:
General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
October 2000

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