Lyon Playfair


1819 Born May 21st at Meerat, son of Dr. George Playfair, Chief Inspector General of Hospitals, Bengal.
Educated at St. Andrews.
Went to Glasgow to study medicine but was attracted to chemistry by teaching of T. Graham.
Visited India, then resumed chemical studies under Graham at University College, London.
1838 Went to Liebig’s laboratory at Griessen, worked at organic chemistry and produced first paper.
Came to England as assistant and interpreter to Liebig who lectured on agricultural chemistry. Introduced to Prince Albert.
For two years managed chemical department of Messrs. Thompsons’ print-works at Clitheroe.
1843 Appointed Professor of Chemistry in Royal Institution, Manchester.
1844 On recommendation of Sir Robert Peel, appointed Member of Royal Commission for examination of sanitary conditions of towns.
1845 Commissioner on Irish Famine.
Other Commissions: “Exhibition of 1851”; “Exhibition of 1862”; Cattle plague” ; “Re-organisation of Civil Service”; “Pensions for aged poor”; “University of London”; “Herring Fisheries of U.K.”; “Coal for the Navy”; etc.
1845 – 1846 Appointed Chemist to Museum of Practical Geology and Professor of Chemistry in School of Mines.
1848 Elected F.C.S.
1851 Value of work at Exhibition recognised – made Companion of the Bath and Officer in the household of the Prince Consort.
Asked to undertake same work again in 1862, also Paris Exhibition 1878.
1853 Appointed Co-Secretary with H. Cole to newly-founded Department of Science and Art.
1853 Resigned from Survey.
1855 President of the Chemistry Section, British Association.
1856 Became Inspector-General of Government Museums and Schools of Science till 1858.
1858 Appointed to Chair of Chemistry at Edinburgh.
1859 Elected F.R.S.
President Chemistry Section, British Association.
1868 Returned as first representative in Parliament of Universities of St. Andrews and Edinburgh.
1873 Postmaster-General.
1880 – 1883 Chairman of Ways and Means, and Deputy-Speaker. Made K.C.B.
1885 Returned for Southern Division of Leeds.
Appointed Vice President of Council on Education.
President of British Association.
1898 Died May 29th.
Most important contribution to pure chemistry = discovery and investigation of the nitroprussides, and to applied chemistry = report on work undertaken with Bunsen on gases evolved in iron furnaces.

Biographies and Obituaries

1899 Proceedings Royal Society LXIV (1899) p. ix