Robert Kerr (writer)

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The grave of Robert Kerr, Greyfriars Kirkyard

Dr Robert Kerr FRSE FSA FRCSE (20 October 1757 – 11 October 1813) was a Scottish surgeon, writer on scientific and other subjects and translator.

Life

Kerr was born in 1757[1] in Bughtridge, Roxburghshire, the son of James Kerr, a jeweller, who served as MP for Edinburgh 1747-1754,[2] and his wife Elizabeth. He was sent to the High School in Edinburgh.

He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and practised at the Edinburgh Foundling Hospital as a surgeon. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1788. His proposers were Alexander Fraser Tytler, James Russell and Andrew Dalzell.[2] At this time he lived at Foresters Wynd off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.[3]

He translated several scientific works into English, such as Antoine Lavoisier's work of 1789, Traité Élémentaire de Chimie, published under the title Elements of Chemistry in a New Systematic Order containing All the Modern Discoveries, in 1790.[4] In 1792, he published The Animal Kingdom, the first two volumes of a four-tome translation of Linnaeus' Systema Naturae, which is often cited as the taxonomic authority for a great many species. (He never did the remaining two volumes.)

In 1794 he left his post as a surgeon to manage a paper mill at Ayton in Berwickshire which he had purchased. He lost much of his fortune with this enterprise. Out of economical necessity he began writing again in 1809, publishing a variety of minor works, for instance a General View of the Agriculture of Berwickshire. His last work was a translation of Cuvier's Recherches sur les ossements fossiles de quadrupedes, which was published after Kerr's death under the title "Essays on the Theory of the Earth".

His other works included a massive historical study entitled A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels in eighteen volumes. Kerr began the series in 1811, dedicating it to Sir Alexander Cochrane, K.B., Vice-Admiral of the White. Publication did not cease following Kerr's death in 1813; the latter volumes were published into the 1820s.

He died at home, Hope Park House[5], east of the Meadows in Edinburgh, where he had lived since 1810, and is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard in central Edinburgh against the eastern wall. His stone is added to a much earlier (1610) ornate stone monument. His son, David Wardrobe Kerr (1796-1815) lies with him.

Selected writings

  • Kerr, Robert (1824). A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Arranged in Systematic Order: Forming a Complete History of the Origin and Progress of Navigation, Discovery, and Commerce, by Sea and Land, from the Earliest Ages to the Present Time. Edinburgh: William Blackwood. 
    • Volume 01
    • Volume 02
    • Volume 03
    • Volume 04
    • Volume 05
    • Volume 06
    • Volume 07
    • Volume 08
    • Volume 09
    • Volume 10
    • Volume 11
    • Volume 12
    • Volume 13
    • Volume 14
    • Volume 15
    • Volume 16
    • Volume 17
    • Volume 18

Notes

  1. ^ Seccombe, Thomas (2004). McConnell, Anita, ed. "Kerr, Robert (1757–1813)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/15466. Retrieved 2016-02-18.  (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. ^ a b Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X. 
  3. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1784-90
  4. ^ Lavoisier, Antoine (1790). Elements of Chemistry. 
  5. ^ Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1813

References


Further reading

  • Lavoisier, Antoine (1965). Elements of Chemistry. New York: Dover. - The introduction by Douglas McKie has information on Robert Kerr, the book's translator.

External links

  • Works by Robert Kerr at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Robert Kerr at Internet Archive
  • Contemporary review of the "Essays on the Theory of the Earth"
  • Significant Scots: Robert Kerr from ElectricScotland.com.
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