Porter, George Richardson (DNB00)

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PORTER, GEORGE RICHARDSON (1792–1852), statistician, the son of a London merchant, was born in London in 1792. Failing in business as a sugar-broker, he devoted himself to economics and statistics, and in 1831 contributed an essay on life assurance to Charles Knight's ‘Companion to the Almanac.’ When, in 1832, Knight declined Lord Auckland's invitation to digest for the board of trade the information contained in the parliamentary reports and papers, he recommended Porter for the task. Porter now had scope for the exercise of his powers as a statistician, and in 1834 the statistical department of the board of trade was permanently established under his supervision. In 1840 he was appointed senior member of the railway department of the same board, and in 1841 Lord Clarendon obtained for him the position of joint secretary of the board in succession to John MacGregor [q. v.] Porter's remuneration was at first inadequate, but he ultimately received 1,000l. a year as chief of the statistical department, 1,200l. as senior member of the railway department, and 1,500l. as joint secretary of the board of trade. He was one of the promoters, in 1834, of the Statistical Society, of which he became vice-president and treasurer in 1841; and he took an active interest in the proceedings of section F of the British Association. He was also an honorary member of the Statistical Society of Ulster, corresponding member of the Institute of France, and fellow of the Royal Society. He died on 3 Sept. 1852 at Tunbridge Wells, and was buried there. The immediate cause of his death was a gnat's sting on the knee, which caused mortification. There is an engraved portrait of him in the rooms of the Statistical Society, Adelphi Terrace, London, W.C.

Porter was a liberal in politics, a zealous free-trader, and an able official. His best-known work, ‘The Progress of the Nation in its various Social and Economical Relations, from the beginning of the Nineteenth Century to the present time’ (3 vols. London, 1836–43, cr. 8vo; 1 vol. London, 1838, 8vo; 1847, 8vo; 1851, 8vo), is an invaluable record of the first half of the nineteenth century. It is remarkable for the accuracy and the variety of its information, and for the skill with which the results of statistical inquiry are presented. Besides tracts and papers on statistical subjects in Lardner's ‘Cabinet Cyclopædia,’ the ‘Journal of the Statistical Society,’ and the ‘Proceedings of the British Association,’ Porter published: 1. ‘The Effect of Restrictions on the Importation of Corn, considered with reference to Landowners, Farmers, and Labourers,’ London, 1839, 8vo. 2. ‘The Nature and Properties of the Sugar Cane …’ 2nd edition, with an additional chapter on the manufacture of sugar from beetroot, London, 1843, 8vo. 3. ‘The Tropical Agriculturist: a Practical Treatise on the Cultivation and Management of various Productions suited to Tropical Climates.’ 4. ‘Popular Fallacies regarding General Interests: being a Translation of the “Sophismes Économiques”’ [of F. Bastiat], &c., 1846, 16mo; 1849, 16mo. 5. ‘A Manual of Statistics’ (Section 15 of the ‘Admiralty Manual of Scientific Inquiry,’ edited by Sir John Frederick William Herschel, 1849, 12mo; 1851, 8vo); another edition, revised by William Newmarch, 1859, 8vo.

Porter, Sarah (1791–1862), writer on education, wife of the above, was the daughter of Abraham Ricardo, and sister of David Ricardo [q. v.] She died on 13 Sept. 1862 at West Hill, Wandsworth, aged 71. She published: 1. ‘Conversations on Arithmetic,’ London, 1835, 12mo; new edition, with the title ‘Rational Arithmetic,’ &c., London, 1852, 12mo. 2. ‘On Infant Schools for the Upper and Middle Classes’ (Central Society of Education, second publication, 1838, 12mo). 3. ‘The Expediency and the Means of elevating the Profession of the Educator in public estimation,’ 1839, 12mo.

[Gent. Mag. 1852 ii. 427–9, 1862 ii. 509; Annual Register, 1852, p. 305; Journal of the Statistical Society, 1853, pp. 97, 98; Athenæum; Waller's Imperial Dictionary, iii. 594; M'Culloch's Literature of Political Economy, pp. 80, 220, 222.]

W. A. S. H.