Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kerr, Robert (1755-1813)

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KERR, ROBERT (1755–1813), scientific writer and translator, was born at his father's seat, Bughtridge, Roxburghshire, in 1755. His father, James Kerr, convener of the trades (1746) and M.P. for Edinburgh from 1747 to 1754, was great-grandson of Sir Thomas Ker of Redden, brother of Robert Ker, first earl of Ancrum [q. v.] His mother, Elizabeth Kerr, was grand-daughter of Robert Kerr [q. v.], first marquis of Lothian. He studied at Edinburgh High School and at the university with a view to the medical profession, and became surgeon to the Edinburgh Foundling Hospital, but relinquished a successful medical career for the management of a paper mill at Ayton, Berwickshire, which eventually proved a failure. He returned to Edinburgh about 1810, and occupied himself with historical and biographical work. His valuable translations from Lavoisier and Linnæus procured his election as fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1805. He was also a member of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries. He died at Edinburgh 11 Oct. 1813.

The following is a list of his works:

  1. 'Elements of Chemistry' (from the French of Lavoisier), Edinburgh, 1790; 2nd edit. 1793.
  2. 'Essay on the New Method of Bleaching by means of Oxygenated Muriatic Acid' (from the French of Berthollet), Edinburgh, 1790.
  3. 'The Animal Kingdom, or Zoological System of Linnæus.' A translation of part i. of the 'Systema Naturæ,' with additions, Edinburgh, 1792, 4to.
  4. 'The Natural History of Oviparous Quadrupeds and Serpents' (from the French of Lacepède), London, 1802.
  5. 'Statistical, Agricultural, and Political Survey of Berwickshire,' 1809, 8vo.
  6. 'Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Correspondence of the late Mr. William Smellie,' Edinburgh, 1811.
  7. 'The History of Scotland during the reign of Robert I, surnamed the Bruce,' Edinburgh, 1811, 8vo.
  8. 'Essay on the Theory of the Earth' (from the French of Cuvier), 1813, 8vo. Ker compiled vols. i-x. of 'A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels,' London, 1811-24, 18 vols.

[Scots Mag. 1813, p. 880; Irving's Eminent Scotsmen, p. 254; Timperley's Anecdotes, pp. 788, 935; Donaldson's Agricultural Biography; Foster's Members of Parlt. Scotland; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Gent. Mag. May 1814 (pt. i. p. 524), where the date of death is wrong.

T. S.