PLAYFAIR, John

PLAYFAIR, John. Benvie, Forfarshire 10.3.1748 — Burntisland, Fife 20.7.1819. British (Scottish) Scientist and Mathematician. Son of Rev. James Pl. and Margaret Young, educated at home. Studies at St.Andrews and Edinburgh, began with divinity, but turned to science. Worked as preacher and tutor, continuing his studies. From 1785 Professor of Mathematics and from 1805 of Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. In 1783 among the founders of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Unmarried.

In his “Remarks”, read in 1789, he was the first to present Indian astronomy in the U.K. He presented it as very ancient (in fact much too ancient) and original and praised its sophisticated methods and exactness. His information he culled from Le Gentil and Bailly.

Publications: “Remarks on the astronomy of the Brahmins”, Transactions of the Royal Soc. of Edinburgh 1790, 135-192; “Questions and Remarks on the Astronomy of the Hindus”, As. Res. 4, 1795 = 8° repr. 1798, 159-164 (written in 1792).

– Much unrelated with India.

Sources: Trautmann 1997, 84-89; Wikipedia with portrait and bust.

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