Richardson, William (1740-1820) (DNB00)

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RICHARDSON, WILLIAM (1740–1820), writer on geology and agriculture, was born in Ireland in 1740. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, as a scholar in 1761, graduated B.A. in 1763, proceeded M.A., was elected fellow in 1766, and became B.D. in 1775 and D.D. in 1778. Edmund Malone [q. v.] was one of his college friends and contemporaries. He became rector of Moy and Clonfele, co. Antrim, where his attention was directed to the origin of basalt, and he studied geology. A vigorous pamphleteer, he issued, between 1802 and 1808, five or six papers attacking the views of Desmarest, Hutton, and others as to the volcanic origin of this rock, and citing as a corroborating witness Professor Pictet of Geneva, who visited him in 1801. His interest was next directed to the value as winter hay of the autumn and winter runners or stolons of the Irish fiorin grass (Agrostis stolonifera of Linnæus, A. alba, var. stolonifera of modern botanists). With characteristic fervour he urged the claims of this plant in numerous letters, articles, and pamphlets between 1809 and 1816, especially in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ and in Tilloch's ‘Philosophical Magazine,’ putting it forward as a panacea for national poverty and as adapted to all climates ‘from Iceland to India.’ The expense of planting instead of sowing has led to the neglect of his proposal. Richardson died at the Glebe House, Clonfele, in July 1820 (Gent. Mag. 1820, ii. 88).

Besides several letters on fiorin grass to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ between 1809 and 1816, his chief papers were: 1. ‘Observations on the Basaltic Coast of Ireland,’ Nicholson's ‘Journal,’ vol. v. (1802). 2. ‘Account of the Whynn Dykes in the neighbourhood of the Giant's Causeway, Ballycastle, and Belfast, in a Letter to the Bishop of Dromore,’ Dublin, 1802, 4to; reprinted from the ‘Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy,’ vol. ix. (1803), and also in the ‘Philosophical Magazine’ for 1810. 3. ‘Inquiry into the Consistency of Dr. Hutton's Theory of the Earth, with the arrangement of the Strata on the Basaltic Coast of Antrim,’ Dublin, 1803, 4to; reprinted from the ‘Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy,’ ib. 4. ‘Inquiry into the Origin of the Opinion that Basalt is Volcanic,’ Dublin, 1805, 4to. 5. ‘On the Volcanic Theory,’ ‘Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy,’ 1806. 6. ‘Letter on the Alterations in the Structure of Rocks on the surface of the Basaltic Country,’ in ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ 1808. 7. ‘Letter to Hon. Isaac Corry [on] Irish Fiorin, or Fyoreen Grass, with Proofs,’ Belfast, 1809, 8vo. 8. ‘Memoir on Useful Grasses,’ Dublin, 1809, 4to; reprinted from the ‘Academy Transactions,’ vol. xi., and also in the ‘Philosophical Magazine’ for 1809 and 1813. 9. ‘Letter to the Marquis of Hertford on Fiorin Grass,’ London, 1810, 8vo. 10. ‘Letter on Irrigation to Right Hon. Isaac Corry,’ Belfast, 1810, 12mo. 11. ‘The Utility of Fiorin Grass: a Prize Essay,’ London, 1811, 8vo. 12. ‘On the Strata of Mountains,’ ‘Philosophical Magazine,’ 1811. 13. ‘Essay on the Peatbogs of Ireland,’ with appendix, ‘Dr. Rennie's position relative to the Sterility of Peat-moss combated,’ London, 1812, 8vo. 14. ‘The Cultivation of Fiorin: a Letter to the Bath and West of England Agricultural Society,’ Bath, 1812, 8vo. 15. ‘Letter on Zeolite and Ochre,’ in J. Dubourdieu's ‘Statistical Survey of Antrim,’ Dublin, 1812, 8vo. 16. ‘Essay on the Improvement of Dartmoor Forest, and … so much increasing our Grain Crops as to make future importation unnecessary; both to be attained by the aid of Fiorin Grass,’ Bath, 1813, 8vo. 17. ‘On the Speculations of the Neptunians,’ in the ‘Philosophical Magazine,’ 1816. 18. ‘On the Similitude and Difference in the Formation of St. Helena and Antrim,’ ib. 19. ‘Letter to the Countess of Gosford’ [on geological subjects], Newry, 1816, 8vo, and also in the ‘Philosophical Magazine,’ 1816. 20. ‘Second Letter on Agriculture as a Science,’ Newry, 1816, 8vo. 21. ‘Letter on the Improvement of Grassy Mountains, by which they may be made to maintain through winter the whole stock that grazed upon them in summer,’ Newry, 1817, 12mo. 22. ‘An Essay on Agriculture,’ London, 1818, 8vo; also in the ‘Philosophical Magazine’ for 1816.

[Donaldson's Agricultural Biography, 1854, p. 108; Gent. Mag. 1820; Works.]

G. S. B.