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liberal tone at variance with the preceding part of the work; and in 1802 he published his History of Scotland from the Union of the Crowns to the Union of the Kingdoms, a work showing considerable research. Attached to the History was a dissertation on the Gowrie conspiracy, and another on the supposed authenticity of Ossian's poems. In another dissertation, prefixed to a second and corrected edition of the History published in 1804, Laing endeavoured to prove that Mary, queen of Scots, wrote the Casket Letters, and was partly responsible for the murder of Lord Darnley. In the same year he edited the Life and Historie of King James VI., and in 1805 brought out in two volumes an edition of Ossian's poems. Laing, who was a friend of Charles James Fox, was member of parliament for Orkney and Shetland from 1807 to 1812. He died on the 6th of November 1818.
Laing, Samuel (1810–1897), British author and railway administrator, was born at Edinburgh on the 12th of December 1810. He was the nephew of Malcolm Laing, the historian of Scotland; and his father, Samuel Laing (1780–1868), was also a well-known author, whose books on Norway and Sweden attracted much attention. Samuel Laing the younger entered St John's College, Cambridge, in 1827, and after graduating as second wrangler and Smith's prizeman, was elected a fellow, and remained at Cambridge temporarily as a coach. He was called to the bar in 1837, and became private secretary to Mr Labouchere (afterwards Lord Taunton), the president of the Board of Trade. In 1842 he was made secretary to the railway department, and retained this post till 1847. He had by then become an authority on railway working, and had been a member of the Dalhousie Railway Commission; it was at his suggestion that the “parliamentary” rate of a penny a mile was instituted. In 1848 he was appointed chairman and managing director of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway, and his business faculty showed itself in the largely increased prosperity of the line. He also became chairman (1852) of the Crystal Palace Company, but retired from both posts in 1855. In 1852 he entered parliament as a Liberal for Wick, and after losing his seat in 1857, was re-elected in 1859, in which year he was appointed financial secretary to the Treasury; in 1860 he was made finance minister in India. On returning from India, he was re-elected to parliament for Wick in 1865. He was defeated in 1868, but in 1873 he was returned for Orkney and Shetland, and retained his seat till 1885. Meanwhile he had been reappointed chairman of the Brighton line in 1867, and continued in that post till 1894, being generally recognized as an admirable administrator. He was also chairman of the Railway Debenture Trust and the Railway Share Trust. In later life he became well known as an author, his Modern Science and Modern Thought (1885), Problems of the Future (1889) and Human Origins (1892) being widely read, not only by reason of the writer's influential position, experience of affairs and clear style, but also through their popular and at the same time well-informed treatment of the scientific problems of the day. Laing died at Sydenham on the 6th of August 1897.
Laing's [or Lang's] Nek, a pass through the Drakensberg, South Africa, immediately north of Majuba (q.v.), at an elevation of 5400 to 6000 ft. It is the lowest part of a ridge which slopes from Majuba to the Buffalo river, and before the opening of the railway in 1891 the road over the nek was the main artery of communication between Durban and Pretoria. The railway pierces the nek by a tunnel 2213 ft. long. When the Boers rose in revolt in December 1880 they occupied Laing's Nek to oppose the entry of British reinforcements into the Transvaal. On the 28th of January 1881 a small British force endeavoured to drive the Boers from the pass, but was forced to retire.
Laird, Macgregor (1808–1861), Scottish merchant, pioneer of British trade on the Niger, was born at Greenock in 1808, the younger son of William Laird, founder of the Birkenhead firm of shipbuilders of that name. In 1831 Laird and certain Liverpool merchants formed a company for the commercial development of the Niger regions, the lower course of the Niger having been made known that year by Richard and John Lander. In 1832 the company dispatched two small ships to the Niger, one, the “Alburkah,” a paddle-wheel steamer of 55 tons designed by Laird, being the first iron vessel to make an ocean voyage. Macgregor Laird went with the expedition, which was led by Richard Lander and numbered forty-eight Europeans, of whom all but nine died from fever or, in the case of Lander, from wounds. Laird went up the Niger to the confluence of the Benue (then called the Shary or Tchadda), which he was the first white man to ascend. He did not go far up the river but formed an accurate idea as to its source and course. The expedition returned to Liverpool in 1834, Laird and Surgeon R. A. K. Oldfield being the only surviving officers besides Captain (then Lieut.) William Allen, R.N., who accompanied the expedition by order of the Admiralty to survey the river. Laird and Oldfield published in 1837 in two volumes the Narrative of an Expedition into the Interior of Africa by the River Niger … in 1832, 1833, 1834. Commercially the expedition had been unsuccessful, but Laird had gained experience invaluable to his successors. He never returned to Africa but henceforth devoted himself largely to the development of trade with West Africa and especially to the opening up of, the countries now forming the British protectorates of Nigeria. One of his principal reasons for so doing was his belief that this method was the best means of stopping the slave trade and raising the social condition of the Africans. In 1854 he sent out at his own charges, but with the support of the British government, a small steamer, the “Pleiad,” which under W. B. Baikie made so successful a voyage that Laird induced the government to sign contracts for annual trading trips by steamers specially built for navigation of the Niger and Benue. Various stations were founded on the Niger, and though government support was withdrawn after the death of Laird and Baikie, British traders continued to frequent the river, which Laird had opened up with little or no personal advantage. Laird's interests were not, however, wholly African. In 1837 he was one of the promoters of a company formed to run steamships between England and New York, and in 1838 the “Sirius,” sent out by this company, was the first ship to cross the Atlantic from Europe entirely under steam. Laird died in London on the 9th of January 1861.
His elder brother, John Laird (1805–1874), was one of the first to use iron in the construction of ships; in 1829 he made an iron lighter of 60 tons which was used on canals and lakes in Ireland; in 1834 he built the paddle steamer “John Randolph” for Savannah, U.S.A., stated to be the first iron ship seen in America. For the East India Company he built in 1839 the first iron vessel carrying guns and he was also the designer of the famous “Birkenhead.” A Conservative in politics, he represented Birkenhead in the House of Commons from 1861 to his death.
Laïs, the name of two Greek courtesans, generally distinguished as follows. (1) The elder, a native of Corinth, born c. 480 b.c., was famous for her greed and hardheartedness, which gained her the nickname of Axinē (the axe). Among her lovers were the philosophers Aristippus and Diogenes, and Eubatas (or Aristoteles) of Cyrene, a famous runner. In her old age she became a drunkard. Her grave was shown in the Craneion near Corinth, surmounted by a lioness tearing a ram. (2) The younger, daughter of Timandra the mistress of Alcibiades, born at Hyccara in Sicily c. 420 b.c., taken to Corinth during the Sicilian expedition. The painter Apelles, who saw her drawing water from the fountain of Peirene, was struck by her beauty, and took her as a model. Having followed a handsome Thessalian to his native land, she was slain in the temple of Aphrodite by women who were jealous of her beauty. Many anecdotes are told of a Laïs by Athenaeus, Aelian, Pausanias, and she forms the subject of many epigrams in the Greek Anthology; but, owing to the similarity of names, there is considerable uncertainty to whom they refer. The name itself, like Phryne, was used as a general term for a courtesan.
See F. Jacobs, Vermischte Schriften, iv. (1830).
Laisant, Charles Anne (1841– ), French politician, was born at Nantes on the 1st of November 1841, and was educated at the École Polytechnique as a military engineer.