Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


Oxford University Press


Buchanan, George (c. 1790-1852)

Third son of David Buchanan, a printer and publisher at Montrose (1745–1812) [q.v.], was born about 1790. His father was a Glasite and an accomplished classical scholar, who published numerous editions of the Latin classics, which were in high repute for their accuracy. George Buchanan was educated at Edinburgh University, where he was a favourite pupil of Sir John Leslie. About 1812 he began business as a land surveyor, but his strong scientific bent soon led him to devote himself to the profession of a civil engineer. In this capacity he was engaged upon several public works of importance, in the construction of harbours and bridges, and made a considerable local reputation. In 1822, on the invitation of the directors of the School of Arts, he delivered a course of lectures on mechanical philosophy in the Freemasons' Hall, remarkable for the original and striking experiments. Buchanan afterwards gave one or two courses of lectures on natural philosophy, but his increasing business as an engineer interfered with any further educational work. In 1827 he drew up a report on the South Esk estuary at Montrose in relation to a question then in dispute concerning salmon fishing. This report attracted the attention and gained the marked commendation of Lord-justice-clerk Hope, then solicitor-general, who afterwards, as long as he remained at the bar, always gave the advice in any case involving scientific evidence to ‘secure Buchanan.’ Subsequently in all the important salmon-fishing questions which arose, and which embraced nearly every estuary in Scotland, Buchanan's services were enlisted, the point being generally to determine where the river ended and the sea began. When the tunnel of the Edinburgh and Granton railway was being constructed under the new town, and the adjacent buildings were considered in imminent danger, Buchanan was commissioned by the sheriff of Edinburgh to supervise the works on behalf of the city. In 1848 he began the work of erecting the huge chimney, nearly 400 feet in height, of the Edinburgh Gasworks, and carried out an exhaustive series of experiments to assure its stability. He communicated an account of this work in detail in two papers read before the Royal Scottish Society of Arts. Buchanan was the author of several scientific treatises. He published a ‘Report on the Theory and Application of Leslie's Photometer’ (Edinburgh, 1824, 8vo). He communicated a series of papers in 1851 to the ‘Courant’ newspaper upon pendulum experiments relating to the earth's rotation, and was a constant contributor to the ‘Transactions of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts.’ He also contributed the article on ‘Furnaces’ to the eighth edition of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica.’ He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and was elected president of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts for the session 1847–8. He died of lung disease on 30 Oct. 1852. David Buchanan (1779–1848) [q.v.] and William Buchanan (1781–1863) [q.v.] were Buchanan's elder brothers.

Buchanan, David, the younger (1779-1848)

Journalist and author, son of David Buchanan, printer and publisher [q.v.], was born at Montrose in 1779. He learned the business of his father, and, like him, also possessed intellectual tastes and sympathies. At an early period of his life he contributed to Cobbett's ‘Political Register’ a reply to the editor on a question of political economy. He also became a contributor to the ‘Edinburgh Review’ shortly after its commencement. In 1807 he published a pamphlet on the volunteer system originated by Pitt, which attracted considerable attention. The following year he accepted an invitation to start in Edinburgh a liberal newspaper, the ‘Weekly Register.’ The paper did not live above a year, and on its discontinuance he transferred his services to the ‘Caledonian Mercury,’ which he continued to edit from 1810 to 1827, when he accepted the editorship of the ‘Edinburgh Courant.’ This paper he edited until his death at Glasgow, 13 Aug. 1848.

Amidst his editorial duties Buchanan found time to devote his attention to a variety of literary projects. He made political economy his special study, and in 1814 he brought out an edition of Adam Smith's works, with life, notes, and a volume of additional matter, in which some of the more important subjects treated of by Smith were examined in the light of further progress and experience. A considerable portion of the volume was afterwards utilised by him in ‘Inquiry into the Taxation and Commercial Policy of Great Britain, with Observations on the Principles of Currency and of Exchangeable Value,’ published in 1844. Of this book the more noticeable features are its arguments against taxes on manufactured goods, its opposition to the income-tax as inconsistent with the spirit of freedom, and its attempted refutation of Ricardo's theory of rent. Buchanan also brought out an edition of the ‘Edinburgh Gazetteer,’ in six volumes, contributed numerous geographical and statistical articles to the seventh edition of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica,’ and supplied a large portion of the letterpress for the ‘Edinburgh Geographical Atlas,’ published in 1835.

Buchanan, William (1781-1863)

Scotch advocate, born in 1781 at Montrose, was the son of David Buchanan, printer and publisher (1745–1812) [q.v.], and brother of David Buchanan, editor of the ‘Edinburgh Courant’ (1779–1848) [q.v.], and of George Buchanan, civil engineer (1790?–1852) [q.v.]. He was educated at Edinburgh University; he studied law and was called to the bar in 1806. At the outset of his career he showed a strong leaning to whig principles but he never made politics a profession, and devoted himself simply to the bar. In 1813 he published ‘Reports of certain Remarkable Cases in the Court of Session and Trials in the High Court of Justiciary.’ These reports are marked by purity of diction and methodical arrangement. In 1856 he was appointed queen's advocate and solicitor of teinds, or tithes, on the death of Sir William Hamilton. He was now the oldest member of the Scottish bar, and peculiarly fitted for his office by his antiquarian bent. He published in November 1862 a ‘Treatise on the Law of Scotland on the subject of Teinds,’ immediately recognised by the whole profession as the standard authority on the subject. Towards the end of his career his infirmity compelled him to withdraw in a great measure from active work. In the autumn of 1863 his health began to give way, and he expired after a lingering illness on 18 Dec.

For the last forty years of his life he was one of the elders of the Glasite church. He married Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. James Gregory, minister of the parish of Banchory, by whom he had numerous children.

Buchanan, David, the elder (1745-1812)

Printer and publisher, a descendant of the ancient family of Buchanan of Buchanan, was born at Montrose in 1745, and studied at the university of Aberdeen, where he graduated M.A. He began the business of printing in his native town at a time when the art was practised in few of the provincial towns of Scotland, and his enterprise as a publisher was also shown by the issue of good editions of the dictionaries of Johnson, Boyer, and Ainsworth. He abridged Johnson's dictionary for the earliest pocket edition ever printed. Among his other publications special mention may be made of his miniature series of English classics, also revised and corrected by himself. He died in 1812.




Date Known


William Buchanan is born to David Buchanan. Sources: 1


At the invitation of the directors of the Edinburgh School of Arts, George Buchanan delivers a course of lectures on mechanical philosophy in the Freemasons' Hall, remarkable for the original and striking experiments. Sources: 1


George Buchanan publishes a "Report on the Theory and Application of Leslie's Photometer". Sources: 1


George Buchanan draws up a report on the South Esk estuary at Montrose, relating to a dispute concerning salmon fishing. Sources: 1


George Buchanan begins the work of errecting a huge chimney, nearly 400 feet high, for the Edinburgh Gasworks, carrying out an exhaustive series of experiments to assure its stability. Sources: 1

13 August 1848

David Buchanan dies in Glasgow, Scotland. Sources: 1


George Buchanan publishes a series of papers in the Courant newspaper upon pendulum experiments relating to the earth's rotation. Sources: 1

30 October 1852

George Buchanan dies. Sources: 1

18 December 1863

William Buchanan dies. Sources: 1

Date Unknown

Date Unknown

George Buchanan is born to David Buchanan. Sources: 1

Date Unknown

William Buchanan and Elizabeth Gregory marry. Sources: 1

Date Unknown

Elizabeth Gregory is born to Rev. James Gregory. Sources: 1