Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/341

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JOHN PLAYFAIR. 135


contradiction of the principles previously ascertained ; while the conclusion would have presented the development of the system adopted by the author, and the application of it to explain the phenomena of geology." Previously to 1815, Mr Flayfair had confined his geological observations to Britain and Ireland ; nor was he able, from causes public or private, previously to that period, to extend them to the continent. His nephew accompanied him on a tour which he designed to extend as far as he could through Italy, Switzerland, and France. He spent a short time in the philosophical circle of Paris, to which his name could not fail to be an introduction. He then passed to Switzerland, and commenced the most important of hia geological notices at Mount Jura, where he found blocks of granite, gneiss, and mica slate, lying loosely on the surface of mountains whose solid substance was entirely calcareous. At Lucerne and Chamouni, he was prevented by adverse weather, from making his intend* cd searches among the interior valleys. Towards winter he was about to return, when he received a letter from the provost of Edinburgh, intimating that the patrons of the university permitted his absence during the ensuing ses- sion a circumstance which enabled him to prolong his tour a whole year. After remaining for a month at Geneva, he entered Italy by the Simplon. In the Academia del Cimento at Florence, his enthusiasm for philosophical history was gratified by an inspection of the instruments made by Galileo, among which was the original telescope, made of two pieces of wood, coarsely hollowed out, and tied together with thread. On the 12th of November he set out for Rome, which he reached on the 18th. There he remained during the winter, occu- pying himself with researches in the Vatican library, such geological observa- tions as the neighbourhood afforded, and the select English society always to be found in the imperial city, among whom he found many of the friends he had met in England. After the termination of the winter he went to Naples, where a wider field for geological observation lay before him. The observa- tions which he made on this part of his route, not so much connected with the action of the volcano as with the state of the surrounding country, are imbodied in some interesting notes, an abstract of which may be found in the memoir above referred to ; but it is to be regretted that the amount of so much accurate observation was not brought to bear on his Analysis of the Theory of the Earth. Mr Playfair returned to Rome, whence, after a second visit to Florence, he proceeded, by such gradations as enabled him accurately to observe the mineralogy of the country, to Geneva. While travelling through Switzerland, he visited, and prepared a short but curious account of the Slide of Alpuach, by which trees are conveyed from the sides of Pilatus into the lake of Lucerne, whence they proceed through the Aur to the Rhine. On his return, he passed through Venice, Lyons, and Paris. In the ensuing summer he retired to Burntisland, where he prepared a memoir on Naval Tactics, in illustration of the discoveries of Clerk of Eldin, which was published after his death. He had intended to publish in detached papers his observations on the remarkable objects of his tour, and to have prepared his Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth, but he lived scarcely long enough to commence these la- bours. For some years he had been afflicted with a strangury, which alarm- ingly increased in the month of June, 1819, and he died on the ensuing 19th of July. He was buried on the 26th, when the members of the Royal Medical Society, and a numerous body of public and private friends, followed him to the grave.

The literary and domestic character of this great and excellent man, have been drawn by Francis Jeffrey, with whom, as the writer of many papers in the Edinburgh Review, Mr Playfair must have been on an intimate footing. The