Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Isbister, Alexander Kennedy

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ISBISTER, ALEXANDER KENNEDY (1822–1883), educational writer, eldest son of Thomas Isbister, an officer of the Hudson Bay Company, was born at Fort Cumberland, Canada, in 1822, and was sent to Scotland, the original home of his family, to be educated. In his fifteenth year he returned to Canada, and after serving for a short time as a pupil-teacher, he entered the service of the Hudson Bay Company. Seeing little prospect of advancement he threw up his appointment and, returning to Scotland, studied at the universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh. At the latter he graduated M.A. on 3 March 1858. During part of this period he supported himself by contributing to the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica’ and to Chambers's ‘Educational Course.’

In 1849 he became second master in the East Islington proprietary school, and a year afterwards the head-master. Five years later he was appointed the head-master of the Jews' College in Finsbury Square, and from 1858 to 1882 was master of the Stationers' Company's school. His connection with the College of Preceptors, 42 Queen Square, Bloomsbury (now located in its own building in Bloomsbury Square), began in 1851. In 1862 he was appointed editor of the ‘Educational Times,’ the official organ of the college, and in 1872 he succeeded the Rev. G. A. Jacob, D.D ., as dean of the college. His services were very great, and to him the present position of the college is largely due. On 17 Nov. 1864 he was admitted to the bar at the Middle Temple, and took the degree of LL.B. at the university of London in 1866. He died at 20 Milner Square, Islington, London, on 28 May 1883. He was the author of numerous works, chiefly school books, among which were: 1. ‘Elements of Bookkeeping,’ 1850, with forms of a set of books, 1854. 2. ‘A Proposal for a New Penal Settlement in the Uninhabited Districts of British North America,’ 1850. 3. ‘Euclid,’ 1860, 1862, 1863, and 1865. 4. ‘Cæsaris Commentarii de Bello Gallico,’ 1863, 1864, 1865, and 1866. 5. ‘The Elements of English Grammar,’ 1865. 6. ‘Arithmetic,’ 1865. 7. ‘Outlines of the English Language,’ 1865. 8. ‘Xenophon's Anabasis,’ 1866. 9. ‘First Steps in Reading and Learning,’ 1867. 10. ‘The Word-builder,’ 1869. 11. ‘The Illustrated Public School Speaker,’ 1870. 12. ‘Lessons on Elocution,’ 1870.

[Times, 30 May 1883, p. 11; Journal of Education, July 1883, p. 247; Solicitors' Journal, 9 June 1883, p. 537; Law Times, 9 June 1883, p. 119.]

G. C. B.