Jul 252016
Stone edifice memorial to John Playfair on Calton Hill.

Memorial to John Playfair on Calton Hill

38 Calton Hill, Edinburgh, EH7 5AA

Mathematician, physicist and geologist, John Playfair is perhaps best known as James Hutton’s most influential disciple. His Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802) probably did more to popularise his theory than Hutton’s own notoriously impenetrable writings.  In his career he was consecutively professor of mathematics and professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. As first president of Edinburgh Astronomical Institution he enthusiastically supported the construction of Edinburgh’s observatory on Calton Hill, which his monument stands beside, but sadly died before its completion.


Portrait of John Playfair by Henry Raeburn.

Portrait of John Playfair (1748-1819) by Henry Raeburn.

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Apr 172016

8-12 Niddry Street South, Edinburgh, EH1 1NS

The Oyster Club This weekly dining club for scientists and philosophers met regularly throughout the 1770s. It had been established by the great economist and political philosopher Adam Smith, the chemist Joseph Black and the geologist James Hutton. The club was attended by a veritable constellation of Edinburgh’s most brilliant thinkers, including John Playfair, Adam Ferguson, David Hume and Sir James Hall. It also payed host to a wide variety of visiting international scientists, including the French geologist Barthélémy Faujas de Saint Fond, James Watt the engineer and inventor from Glasgow, and Benjamin Franklin the American scientist and inventor.

Now a private venue – no free public access.