Brayley, Edward William (DNB00)


BRAYLEY, EDWARD WILLIAM, the younger (1802–1870), writer on science, eldest son of Edward Wedlake Brayley the elder [q. v.], was born in London in 1802. He was educated, together with his brothers Henry and Horatio, under an austere system. Secluded from all society except that of their tutors, the boys led a cheerless and monotonous life. The solace of pocket-money was denied them, and they were not allowed to take a walk unaccompanied by a tutor. Henry and Horatio both died of consumption. Edward William, who survived, studied science both in the London and the Royal Institution, where he attended Professor Brande's lectures on chemistry. Early in life, following in his father's footsteps, he gave some attention to topographical literature, and wrote the historical descriptions in a work on the 'Ancient Castles of England and Wales' (2 vols. 1825), the views being engraved by William Woolnoth from original drawings. However, he soon abandoned antiquarian studies and devoted his attention exclusively to scientific investigation. He had already published in the 'Philosophical Magazine' (1824) a paper on luminous meteors, a subject which occupied his attention to nearly the close of his life; and he afterwards published a work 'On the Rationale of the Formation of the Filamentous and Mamillary Varieties of Carbon, and on the probable existence of but two distinct states of aggregation in ponderable matter,' London, 1826, 8vo. For some years he held the office of joint-librarian of the London Institution in Finsbury Circus. He was one of the editors (between 1822 and 1845) of the 'Annals of Philosophy,' the 'Zoological Journal,' and the 'Philosophical Magazine.' To all these he contributed original papers and notices, chiefly on subjects of mineralogical chemistry, geology, and zoology, together with special communications on igneous meteors and meteorites, and a few articles of scientific biography. His principal contribution to geological science was a paper on the formation of rock-basins, published in the 'Philosophical Magazine' in 1830. In 1829 and 1830 he was engaged by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Rowland Hill, and the father and brother of that gentleman, to take charge, as lecturer and tutor, of a department of instruction in physical science which they were desirous of making a permanent part of the system of education carried on in their schools of Hazelwood near Birmingham, and Bruce Castle, Tottenham, near London. The scheme, however, did not receive adequate encouragement from the public. The original views on this subject of the Messrs. Hill and Brayley were explained and advocated by the latter in a work entitled 'The Utility of the Knowledge of Nature considered; with reference to the General Education of Youth,' London, 1831, 8vo.

At the London Institution he took part in the system of lectures, both illustrative and educational. He occasionally delivered discourses on special subjects at the Friday-evening meetings of the Royal Institution; in one, 11 May 1838 (Phil. Mag. S. 3, xii. 533), 'On the Theory of Volcanoes,' he showed that the thermotic theory of plutonic and volcanic action, indicated by Mr. George Poulett Scrope, M.P., F.R.S., and explicitly proposed and developed by Mr. Babbage and Sir John F. W. Herschel, necessarily included, as an integrant part, contrary to Herschel's opinion, the chemical theory on the same subject of Sir Humphry Davy, founded on his discovery of the metallic bases of alkalies and alkaline earths. This subject was resumed in a course of lectures on 'Igneous Geology,' also delivered at the Royal Institution, in 1842, on the state of the interior of the earth and the effective thickness of its crust.

Brayley prepared the last genuine edition of Parkes's 'Chemical Catechism' (1834). To the biographical division of the 'English Cyclopædia' he contributed the lives of several men of science; and to the arts and sciences division of the same work the articles Meteors, Correlation of Physical Forces, Refrigeration of the Globe, Seismology, Waves and Tides, Winds, and others on cognate branches of physics. He also wrote the elaborate papers on the 'Physical Constitution and Functions of the Sun,' in the 'Companion to the Almanac' for the years 1864, 1865, and 1866, and that on the 'Periodical Meteors of November' in the volume for 1868. Brayley gave assistance to several men of science in conducting their works through the press, and assisting them to give perfect expression to their own views, confided to him. Among these works may be particularised the 'Origines Biblicæ' of Dr. Charles Beke, F.S.A.; the 'Correlation of Physical Forces' of Mr. (now Sir) William Robert Grove, F.R.S. (the first and second editions); and the 'Barometrographia' of Mr. Luke Howard, F.R.S. It is deserving of note that when Sir William Grove first achieved the decomposition of water by heat there were only three persons present besides the discoverer, namely, Faraday, Gassiot, and Brayley.

Brayley was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1854; he was an original member of the Zoological and Chemical Societies, a corresponding member of the Societas Naturæ Scrutatorum at Basle, and a member of the American Philosophical Society. Brayley died on 1 Feb. 1870, at his residence in London, of heart disease. He was in the library of the London Institution forty-eight hours before his death.

[Private information; English Cyclopædia, Biography, vi. 982, Suppl. 311; Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, xxvi. p. xli.]

T. C.