Low, David (1786-1859) (DNB00)

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LOW, DAVID (1786–1859), professor of agriculture, eldest son of Alexander Low, land-agent, of Laws, Berwickshire, was born in 1786, and educated at Perth Academy and the university of Edinburgh. He assisted his father on his farms, and soon showed special aptitude as a land-agent and valuer. In 1817 he published ‘Observations on the Present State of Landed Property, and on the Prospects of the Landholder and the Farmer,’ in which was discussed the agricultural embarrassment caused by the sudden fall of prices on the cessation of the war. In 1825 he settled in Edinburgh, and in the following year the ‘Quarterly Journal of Agriculture’ was established at his suggestion; he edited it from 1828 to 1832. On the death of Professor Andrew Coventry in 1831 he was appointed professor of agriculture in the university of Edinburgh. His first step was to urge on the government the necessity of forming an agricultural museum. The chancellor of the exchequer, Mr. Spring Rice, consented in 1833 to allow 300l. a year for that purpose. Low contributed collections of his own, and employed William Shiels, R.S.A., to travel, taking portraits of the best specimens of different breeds of animals. Altogether 3,000l. were expended on the museum—1,500l. came from the government, 300l. from the Reid fund, and the rest from the professor's private resources. The museum led to increased attendance in the class of agriculture, which numbered from seventy to ninety students. To chemistry Low was also much devoted, and had a private laboratory. In 1842 he brought out a splendid work in two volumes, 4to, on ‘The Breeds of the Domestic Animals of the British Islands,’ with coloured plates. This was translated for the French government immediately on its appearance. Low resigned his chair in 1854, and died at Mayfield, Edinburgh, 7 Jan. 1859.

Besides the works already mentioned, Low was the author of: 1. ‘Elements of Practical Agriculture,’ 1834; 4th edit. 1843; translated into French and German. 2. ‘The Breeds of the Domestic Animals of the British Islands,’ London, 1842. 3. ‘On Landed Property and the Economy of Estates,’ 1844. 4. ‘An Inquiry into the Nature of the simple Bodies of Chemistry,’ 1844; 3rd edit. 1856. 5. ‘Appeal to the Common Sense of the Country regarding the condition of the Industrious Classes,’ 1850.

[Anderson's Scottish Nation, 1863, iii. 717–718; Grant's University of Edinburgh, 1884, ii. 456–7; Irving's Book of Scotsmen, 1881, p. 290.]

G. C. B.