Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Blair, John (d.1782)

BLAIR, JOHN, LL.D. (d. 1782), chronologist, erroneously said to have been a descendant of the Rev. Robert Blair (1593–1666) [q. v.], really belonged to the Blairs of Balthayock, Perthshire. The date of his birth is unknown, but he was born and educated in Edinburgh. Leaving Scotland as a young man, he became usher of a school in Hedge Lane, London, in succession to Andrew Henderson, author of a well-known history of the rebellion of 1745. In 1754 he published, after elaborate preparations, his magnum opus, which he designated 'The Chronology and History of the World, from the Creation to the Year of Christ 1753, illustrated in fifty-six tables.' It was modestly dedicated to the lord chancellor (Hardwicke), and was published by subscription. In the preface he acknowledged great obligations to the Earl of Bute, and announced certain supplementary dissertations, which never appeared. The plan and scope of the work originated with Dr. Hugh Blair's scheme of chronological tables. The 'Chronology' was reprinted in 1756, 1768, and 1814. It was revised and enlarged 'by Willoughby Rosse in Bohn's 'Scientific Library,' 1856. In 1768 Blair published 'Fourteen Maps of Ancient and Modern Geography, for the illustration of the Tables of Chronology and History; to which is prefixed a dissertation on the Rise and Progress of Geography.' The dissertation was separately republished in 1784.

Blair's first book was well received. In 1755 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and in its 'Transactions' appeared a paper by him on the 'Agitation of the Waters near Reading' (Phil. Trans. x. 651, 1755). He had previously obtained orders in the church of England, and in September 1757 was appointed chaplain to the Princess-dowager of Wales and mathematical tutor to the Duke of York. In March 1761, on the promotion of Dr. Townshend to the deanery of Norwich, Blair was given a prebend al stall at Westminster. Within a week the dean and chapter of Westminster presented him to the vicarage of Hinckley. In the same year he was chosen fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. In September 1763 he left with the Duke of York on a tour on the continent, and was absent until 1764. In 1771 he was transferred, by presentation of the dean and chapter of Westminster, to the vicarage of St. Bride, London, and again to the rectory of St. John the Evangelist, Westminster, in April 1776. He was also rector of Horton (Milton's Horton) in Buckinghamshire. He died on 24 June 1782. The statement that his last illness was aggravated by the sad death of his gallant brother, Captain Blair [see Blair, William, 1741-1782], is erroneous. They were only cousins. Blair's 'Lectures on the Canons of the Old Testament, comprehending a Dissertation on the Septuagint Version,' 1785, was a posthumous publication.

[Notes and Queries, 6th series, vii. 48; Anderson's Scottish Nation; researches in Edinburgh.]

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