Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Buchanan, George (1790?-1852)

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1317909Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 07 — Buchanan, George (1790?-1852)1886Robert Harrison

BUCHANAN, GEORGE (1790?–1852), civil engineer of Edinburgh, 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 edition of the Latin classics, which were in high repute for the 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 in several public works of importance, in construction of harbours an 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 be` 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 cut 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 Theo and Application of Leshe'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.

[Scotsman, November 1852; Courant, 19 June 1851; Proceedings Roy. Scot. Soc. of Arts.]

R. H.