Prior, Thomas (1682?-1751) (DNB00)

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PRIOR, THOMAS (1682?–1751), founder of the Dublin Society and philanthropist, born about 1682 was a native of Rathdowny, Queen's County, He entered the public school at Kilkenny in January 1696-7, and continued there till April 1699. Among his school-fellows was George Berkeley [q. v.], subsequently bishop of Cloyne, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. Prior entered Trinity College, Dublin, obtained a scholarship in 1701, and graduated B.A. in 1703. He subsequently devoted himself to the promotion of material and industrial works among the protestant population in Ireland.

In 1729 appeared at Dublin his 'List of the Absentees of Ireland,' and in the following year he published 'Observations on Coin.' In conjunction with Samuel Madden [q. v.] and eleven other friends, Prior in 1731 succeeded in establishing the Dublin Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Manufactures, Arts, and Sciences. It was duly incorporated, and received a grant from parliament in 1749 of 500l. a year, and subsequently developed into the Royal Dublin Society.

To Lord Chesterfield, who during his vice-royalty had occasional intercourse with Prior and formed a high opinion of him, Prior in 1746 dedicated 'An Authentic Narrative of the Success of Tar-water in Curing a great number and variety of Distempers.' This publication included two letters from Berkeley. An essay by Prior, advocating the encouragement of the linen manufacture in Ireland, wan published at Dublin in 1749.

Prior died on 21 Oct. 1751, and was buried at Rathdowny, A monument was erected by subscription to his memory in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, with an inscriptionin Latin by Bishop Berkeley, who styled him 'Societatis Dubliniensis auctor, institutor, curator.' A marble bust of Prior is in the possession of the Royal Dublin Society. A portrait of him in mezzotint was published at Dublin in 1752.

[Gilbert's Hist. of Dublin; Chesterfield'a Letters, by Lord Mahon; Reoords of the Dublin Society; Berkeley's Literary Relics; Tracts relative to Ireland, 1861; Berkeley's Works, 1871.]

J. T. G.