Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hodgson, William Ballantyne
HODGSON, WILLIAM BALLANTYNE (1815–1880), educational reformer and political economist, son of William Hodgson, a working printer, was born at Edinburgh on 6 Oct. 1815. In 1823 he entered the Edinburgh High School, and, after working for a short time in a lawyer's office, matriculated in November 1829, when just turned fourteen, at the Edinburgh University. He took no degree as a student. He employed himself in lecturing on literature, education, and phrenology at various towns in Fifeshire. On 1 June 1839 he was appointed secretary to the Mechanics' Institute of Liverpool. He was offered the editorship of a Liverpool newspaper in 1841, and that of a Manchester newspaper somewhat later, but declined both. In 1844, by his advice, a girls' school was added to the Liverpool Institute, and in the same year he was appointed principal of the institute. On 11 March 1846 he received the degree of LL.D. from Glasgow University. From 1847 to 1851 he was principal of the Chorlton High School, Manchester; in 1848 he agitated for the education of women at the Royal Institution of Manchester. In 1851 he travelled abroad, remaining in Paris from October 1851 to July 1852. In 1853 he returned to Edinburgh. Here he gave courses of popular lectures on physiology, having qualified himself by attending the classes at the College of Surgeons. In 1854 he lectured at the Royal Institution, London, on economic science. He was appointed in 1858 an assistant commissioner of inquiry into primary education, and removed to London. He was examiner in political economy to the London University from 1863 to 1868, and was placed on the council of University College, Gower Street. As a member of council he seconded in 1866 the confirmation of the report of the senatus in favour of the election of James Martineau to the vacant chair of mental philosophy; and in consequence of Martineau's rejection he resigned his seat on the council 19 Jan. 1867 [see Grote, George]. In 1870 he removed to Bournemouth, but in the following year he was elected (17 July 1871) by the Merchant Company of Edinburgh as the first occupant of the new chair founded largely by his efforts of commercial and political economy and mercantile law in the Edinburgh University. During the ten years of his professorial career he was successful in stimulating economic study. He frequently attended the Social Science congresses, acting at Norwich in 1873 as president of the educational section. In 1875 he was made president of the Educational Institute of Scotland. A strong liberal, he took little part in politics. He died of angina pectoris at Brussels while attending the educational congress there on 24 Aug. 1880. He was buried at the Grange cemetery, Edinburgh. He married, first (in 1841), Jane Cox of Liverpool, who died without issue on 1 July 1860; secondly (on 14 Jan. 1863), Emily, second daughter of Sir Joshua Walmsley, who survived him, with two sons and two daughters.
Hodgson was a remarkably lucid lecturer and speaker, and his humorous illustrations relieved a monotonous delivery. Somewhat reserved in manner, his conversation was rich in terse anecdote and in jocose suggestion. His posthumous devotional pieces (printed with his ‘Life’) exhibit his religious nature.
He published: 1. ‘Lecture on Education,’ &c., Edinburgh, 1837, 12mo. 2. ‘Address … to the Mental Improvement Society of the Liverpool Mechanics' Institute,’ &c., Liverpool , 12mo. 3. ‘The Secular, the Religious, and the Theological,’ &c., 1850, 12mo. 4. ‘On the Importance of the Study of Economic Science,’ &c., 1855, 8vo; 1860, 8vo; 1866, 8vo. 5. ‘On the Report of the Commissioners … to inquire into … Public Schools,’ &c., 1864, 8vo (two editions same year). 6. ‘Classical Instruction,’ &c., 1866, 8vo. 7. ‘The Education of Girls,’ &c., 1864–6, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1869, 8vo. 8. ‘The True Scope of Economic Science,’ &c., 1870, 8vo. 9. ‘Turgot: his Life, Times, and Opinions,’ &c., 1870, 8vo. 10. ‘Inaugural Address,’ &c., Edinburgh, 1871, 8vo. Posthumous was 11. ‘Errors in the Use of English,’ &c., Edinburgh, 1881, 8vo, edited by his widow. He contributed a preface and notes to H. Mann's ‘Report of an Educational Tour in Germany,’ &c., 1846, 12mo; edited, in conjunction with H. J. Slack, the memorial edition (1865, &c.) of the ‘Works’ of William Johnson Fox [q. v.]; and translated ‘Count Cavour's Thoughts on Ireland,’ &c., 1868, 8vo.
[Life and Letters, edited by J. M. D. Meiklejohn, 1883; Irving's Book of Scotsmen, 1881, p. 215; private information and personal knowledge.]