William Vernon Harcourt (scientist)

William Vernon Harcourt (scientist)

William Vernon Harcourt (1789 - April, 1871) was founder of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.


He was born at Sudbury, Derbyshire, a younger son of Edward Harcourt, Archbishop of York and his wife Lady Anne Leveson-Gower.

Anne was a daughter of Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Marquess of Stafford and his second wife Lady Louisa Egerton. Her maternal grandparents were Scroop Egerton, 1st Duke of Bridgewater and his second wife Rachel Russell.

Rachel was a daughter of Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford and the rich heiress Elizabeth Howland, daughter of John Howland of Streatham.


Having served for five years in the Royal Navy he went up to Christ Church, Oxford, intending to take holy orders. He began his clerical duties at Bishopthorpe, Yorkshire, in 1811, and having developed a great interest in science while at the university, he took an active part in the foundation of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, of which he was the first president.

The laws and the plan of proceedings for the British Association for the Advancement of Science were drawn up by him; and Harcourt was elected president in 1839. In 1824 he became canon of York and rector of Wheldrake in Yorkshire, and in 1837 rector of Bolton Percy. The Yorkshire School for the Blind and the Castle Howard reformatory both owe their existence to his energies. His spare time until quite late in life was occupied with scientific experiments. He collaborated with Sir George Gabriel Stokes for example. Inheriting the Harcourt estates in Oxfordshire from his brother in 1861, he moved to Nuneham House, where he died.

His second son, William, was a successful politician.


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