Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 53.djvu/65

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ing and Deep Working.’ In 1834 he was examined before a committee of the House of Commons on agricultural depression, on the subject of his system of cultivation, which in the opinion of Mr. Shaw Lefevre, chairman of the committee, was ‘the only thing likely to promote the general improvement of agriculture.’ Another high authority, John Claudius Loudon [q. v.], referred to it in the ‘Gardener's Magazine’ as ‘the most extraordinary agricultural improvement of modern times.’

In addition to the subsoil plough, Smith invented a turn-wrest plough and the web-chain harrow. He also experimented in manures, and devoted much attention to engineering operations, mechanism, and manufactures. He constructed the water-wheel at the Shawswater cotton mill, Greenock, and the bridge at Gargunnock on the Carse of Stirling. He also invented and patented an improved self-acting mule. But it was in connection with the factory of Deanston that his talent for invention and organisation found greatest scope. He increased the water-power at the command of the factory by constructing a weir on the river Teith. This weir was of such height as to prevent the passage of the salmon up the river. Smith removed the difficulty by the invention and construction of the ‘salmon ladder,’ which deserves a prominent place among his inventions (see Edinb. Rev. 1873, cxxxvii. 172). The factory itself he enlarged, and built a model village for the accommodation of his workpeople.

Suddenly, in 1842, he abandoned his employment at Deanston, and, coming to London, established himself there as an ‘agricultural engineer’ (Quarterly Rev. 1844, lxxiii. 490 sq.). Soon afterwards he was appointed one of the commissioners for the inquiry into the sanitary condition of large towns. He was an advocate of the use of sewage water for agricultural purposes, and his paper on this subject was published in the appendix to the ‘Report’ of the health of towns commission. After two years of investigation and experiment to determine the practicability of his scheme for the utilisation of London sewage, parliament was approached on the subject, but nothing was done.

Smith was about this time largely employed, especially during the railway mania of 1844, in the examination and valuation of land intended to be used in the construction of railroads.

He died unmarried, on 10 June 1850, when on a visit to his cousin, Archibald Buchanan, at Kingencleuch in Ayrshire. He had many inventions in view at the time, and was taking out a patent for a sheep dip of a new composition intended to supersede the system of ‘tarring.’ He had also extensive plans for improvements in farmsteadings, for the better housing of cattle, and for watering the fields in time of drought.

There is a small full-length portrait of him by Ansdell in the possession of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, and a life-size half-length portrait now in the South Kensington Museum. The latter is reproduced in the ‘Farmer's Magazine’ for September 1846 (facing page 191).

[Farmer's Magazine, Edinburgh, 1812 xiii. 441, 1813 xiv. 397, 1814 xv. 10, xvii. 1, 94, 160, 261, 318, 450; London, (1846) (2nd ser.), xiv. 191, (1850) xxii. 66; Quarterly Journal of Agriculture, xvii. 457; Mark Lane Express, 17 June 1850.]

E. C.-e.

SMITH, JAMES, known as ‘Smith of Jordanhill’ (1782–1867), geologist and man of letters, was born at Glasgow 15 Aug. 1782. He was the eldest son of Archibald Smith (d. 1821), West India merchant, and Isobel Ewing (d 1855, aged 100). He was educated at the grammar school, Edinburgh, and the university of Glasgow, and became a sleeping partner in the firm of Leitch & Smith, West India merchants. Science, literature, and the fine arts were, however, the business of his life, and he was a collector of rare books, particularly those relating to early voyages and travels. He was also an enthusiastic yachtsman, one of the earliest members of both the Royal and the Royal Northern Yacht clubs; his first cruise in his own vessel being made in 1806, and his last in 1866. He was for a time an officer in the Renfrewshire militia, and happened to be on duty at the Tower of London during the imprisonment of Sir Francis Burdett [q. v.]

Smith's fondness for the sea and practical knowledge of navigation were indirectly helpful in his scientific and literary work. His earliest published paper was on ‘A Whirlwind at Roseneath’ (Edinb. Phil. Journ. 1822, p. 331); his next on ‘A Vitrified Fort’ (Trans. Roy. Soc. Edinb. x. 79), discovered accidentally on landing from his yacht in the Kyles of Bute. The raised beaches and other indications of comparatively recent changes in the relative level of sea and land, so conspicuous on the west coast of Scotland, next attracted his attention, and he perceived that the molluscs which occur in them differ in certain respects from those now living on the same coast. An explanation of this fact was sought in cruises for dredging in the northern seas, when he ascertained that species now extinct in Scottish waters were still living in more