Coventry, Andrew (DNB01)
|←Courtenay, William Reginald|| Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement
|1904 Errata appended.|
COVENTRY, ANDREW (1764-1832), agriculturist, born in 1764, was eldest son of George Coventry, minister of in Roxburghshire. Through his mother, whose maiden name was Horn, he inherited the estate of Shanwell, near Kinross, and some other landed property in Perthshire. He was educated at the university of Edinburgh, and on 15 Dec. 1782 he was elected a member of the Medical Society of Edinburgh (List of Members of the Medical Society of Edinburgh, 1820). In September 1783 he graduated M.D. (List of Graduates in Medicine in University of Edinburgh, 1867) for a thesis, 'De Scarlatina Cynanchica.' It is not clear whether he ever practised as a physician; but he appears to have specialised in the sciences bearing upon agriculture.
On 7 July 1790 Sir William Pulteney took the first steps towards endowing a chair of agriculture in the Edinburgh University, nominating at the same time Coventry to be the first professor. Hitherto occasional lectures on this subject had been delivered by other professors, e.g. by the professor of chemistry, Dr. William Cullen [q. v.], at the instigation of Lord Kames. A much fuller course had also been given by John Walker (1731-1803) [q. v.], then professor of natural history, in 1788.
The foundation of the new chair appears to have been regarded with a good deal of jealousy; the professor of natural history protesting that he was not to be hindered thereby from teaching 'any branch of natural science,' to which the professor of botany objected as infringing his rights; while Coventry on his part insisted that none but himself had the right to give 'a separate course of georgical lectures.' Moreover, the endowment and patronage of a chair by a private individual was at that date without precedent in the university, and appears to have aroused feelings of opposition.
In spite of these obstacles Coventry became, on 17 Nov. 1790, the first professor of agriculture in the university, and continued to hold the post until 1831. The endowment of the chair amounted to only 50l. per annum; but Coventry supplemented his work as a teacher by many other duties. 'He was constantly called on to arbitrate in land questions, and to give evidence before the court of session and before committees of the House of Commons; the drainage of Loch Leven and the reclamation of the surrounding lands were carried out under his directions' (Alex. Grant, Story of the University of Edinburgh, 1884, i. 345-7). Coventry gave evidence before the royal commission appointed in 1826 to investigate the condition of the universities and colleges of Scotland, when he said that he had delivered thirty-two courses, some of them, consisting of more than 140 lectures each. Although the subject he taught was not available for graduation, he had attracted classes varying in number from thirty to seventy-eight. Towards the end of his tenure of office, however, he appears to have lectured only in alternate years, 'persuading persons who wished to attend him during any session when he was to be absent to put off doing so, and to attend the classes of chemistry and botany in the meantime.' The royal commission, which concluded its labours in 1830, recommended among other reforms that the chair of agriculture should be abolished 'unless a class could be provided for it, and taught regularly.'
Coventry, who was now sixty-three, accordingly resigned, and was succeeded by David Low (1786-1859) [q. v.]on 16 March 1831. He died in the next year.
He wrote, in addition to the thesis referred to above : 1. ' Remarks on Live Stock and relative Subjects,' 1806 (not in British Museum, but in library of Faculty of Advocates). 2. 'Discourses explanatory of the Object and Plan of the Course of Lectures on Agriculture and Rural Economy,' 1808. 3. 'Notes on the Culture and Cropping of Arable Land,'1811. The treatises attributed to him by Grant, on 'Dairy Produce' and 'The Succession of Crops and the Valuation of Soils,' are not to be found either in the British Museum or in the library of the Faculty of Advocates. They are perhaps identical with (1) and (3) above.
The Andrew Coventry who in 1829 edited, and presented to the Bannatyne Club, Petruccio Ubaldini's 'Descrittione del regno di Scotia' was a different person, in spite of the direct statement made against his name in the British Museum Catalogue; he was an advocate, and would appear, from the list of members of the Bannatyne Club published in 1846, to have been still living in that year. A third Andrew Coventry, also declared in the British Museum Catalogue to be the professor of agriculture, delivered the Ulbster Hall lecture 'On some of the most curious inventions and discoveries in recent times,' which was printed for private circulation in 1856.[Alex. Grant's Story of the University of Edinburgh, 1884, i. 345-7, ii. 456; Cat. of the Library of the Faculty of Advocates; authorities cited above.]
|71||i||2f.e.||Coventry, Andrew: for Stitchell read the Relief Church at Stitchell|