Dionysius Lardner

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Lardner, Dionysius, Rev., LL.D., a voluminous scientific writer, was born in Dublin, 3rd April 1793. At fourteen he was placed in the office of his father, a solicitor, but his scientific tastes were so marked that he was permitted to enter Cambridge, where he took his degree of B.A. in 1817, and gained fifteen or sixteen prizes in metaphysics, mathematics, moral philosophy, and other departments of learning. During his fourteen years' residence in College he prepared several mathematical treatises for the Edinburgh and Metropolitan Cyclopaedias. He also delivered before the Royal Dublin Society, a aeries of scientific lectures for which he was awarded a gold medal. In 1828 he retouched these lectures and published them in a volume under the title of Lectures on the Steam Engine. Upon the establishment of the University of London in 1827, Lardner, at the solicitation of Lord Brougham, accepted the chair of Physics and Astronomy. He now conceived the idea of compiling a large popular scientific cyclopaedia. Obtaining the best assistance in the United Kingdom, the first volume of Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia appeared in 1830. It was completed in 135 vols. 12mo. in 1844. The articles on Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Heat, Arithmetic, and Geometry were written by himself. From 1830 to 1840, he was occasionally employed by railway companies in preparing reports and giving advice at the inception of their several lines.

In 1840 he left the country, in consequence, it is stated, of a verdict, with £8,000 damages, having been obtained against him in a suit for seduction. After a visit to France, he removed to the United States, where he was received with great attention as a leading scientific man. He gave courses of lectures in the principal cities of the Union, by which he is said to have made £40,000, besides the profits afterwards arising from their publication in book-form. On his return to Europe in 1845, he settled permanently in Paris. Besides many works and articles on scientific subjects, he projected and carried out his Museum of Science and Art, published in 12 vols. between 1854 and 1856. It has been styled by Sir David Brewster "one of those works the most interesting and the most useful which have been published for the scientific instruction of all classes of the community." Indeed Dr. Lardner may be said to have done more to popularize science amongst English-speaking people than any other writer in modern times. He died in Naples, 29th April 1859, aged 66.

Sources

7. Annual Register. London, 1756-1877.

40. Biographical Division of English Cyclopaedia, with Supplement: Charles Knight, 7 vols. London, 1856-'72.

34. Biographie Générale. 46 vols. Paris, 1855-'66. An interleaved copy, copiously noted by the late Dr. Thomas Fisher, Assistant Librarian of Trinity College, Dublin.

146. Gentleman's Magazine. London, 1731-1868.
Gilbert, John T., see Nos. 110, 335.

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