About 1760 Burnett married Miss Farquharson, a relative of Marischal Keith, by whom he had one son and two daughters. His domestic life was unfortunate. His wife, a beautiful and accomplished woman, died in childbed. His only son Arthur, in whose education he took the greatest delight, and who, as Boswell tells us, was examined in Latin by Dr. Johnson when on his visit to Monboddo, died at an early age. His second daughter, whose beauty was celebrated by Burns in his ‘Address to Edinburgh’ and in an elegy on her death (Works of Robert Burns, 1843, i. 83, 125), was carried off by consumption at the age of twenty-five on 17 June 1790. His only surviving child married Kirkpatrick Williamson, an eminent Greek scholar and the keeper of the Outer House rolls.
[Tytler's Memoirs of Lord Kames (1814), i. 243–50; Kerr's Memoirs of William Smellie (1811), i. 409–27, ii. 418; Kay's Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings (1877), i. 18–21, 350, ii. 20, 368, 436, 438; Boswell's Life of Johnson (Croker's edit., 1831), ii. 311–17 et passim; Scots Mag. 1799, lxi. 352, 727–31; Encyclopædia Britannica (9th edit.), xvi. 179; Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice (1833), pp. 531–3; Chambers's Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen (1868), i. 248–50; Chalmers's Biographical Dict. (1813), vii. 389–93.]
BURNETT, JOHN (1729–1784), founder of the Burnett prize, was the son of an Aberdeen merchant, who belonged to the episcopal church. Burnett was born in 1729, entered business in 1750, his father having failed shortly before, and made a competence. He was concerned in stocking-weaving and salmon-fishing. He and his brother paid off their father's debts, amounting to 7,000l. or 8,000l. Burnett was ‘hard at a bargain,’ but returned any profits which exceeded his expectations. He gave up attending public worship, lest he should be committed to the creed of a church, but gave religious instruction to his servants. He was influenced by the example of Howard, the philanthropist, whom he probably met in 1776 in Scotland, and took an interest in various charitable movements. He died unmarried on 9 Nov. 1784. He directed that part of his estate should be applied for the benefit of the poor of Aberdeen and the neighbourhood, and part to a fund for inoculation (the last was afterwards applied to vaccination). The remaining income was to accumulate for a period, and then to be given as a first and second prize for essays in proof of the existence of a supreme Creator, upon grounds both of reason and revelation. In 1815 the first prize was won by William Laurence Brown [q. v.] and the second by John Bird Sumner, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury. In 1855 the first prize (1,800l.) was won by the Rev. Robert A. Thomson, and the second by John Tulloch, afterwards principal of St. Andrews. The funds have since been applied to the support of a lectureship on some branch of science, history, or archæology treated in illustration of natural theology. The first lectures under the new scheme were delivered at Aberdeen by Professor Stokes of Cambridge in November 1883.
[Memoir by W. L. Brown prefixed to Essay on the Existence of a Supreme Creator, being the first Burnett prize essay; Aberdeen Free Press, 6 Nov. 1883.]
BURNETT, JOHN (1764?–1810), Scotch lawyer, was the son of William Burnett, procurator-at-law in Aberdeen, where he was born about 1764. He was admitted advocate at Edinburgh on 10 Dec. 1785. In 1792 he was appointed advocate-depute, and in October 1803 sheriff of Haddingtonshire. In April 1810 he became judge-admiral of Scotland. He was also for some time counsel for the city of Aberdeen. He died on 8 Dec. 1810, while his work on the ‘Criminal Law of Scotland’ was passing through the press. It was published in 1811. Though in certain respects imperfect and misleading, it is a work of great merit, the more especially that it is one of the earliest attempts to form a satisfactory collection of decisions in criminal cases.
[Anderson's Scottish Nation; Catalogue of the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh.]
BURNETT, Sir WILLIAM (1779–1861), physician, was born in January 1779 at Montrose, where he was apprenticed to a surgeon. He was appointed surgeon's mate on board the Edgar, 74 guns, soon after his arrival at Edinburgh to pursue his medical studies. Later he served as assistant-surgeon in the Goliath under Sir J. Jervis, and was present at St. Vincent and the siege of Cadiz. Continuing in the navy, and serving with great distinction at the Nile and Trafalgar, he received a C.B. and four war medals for his services. For five years after Trafalgar Burnett was in charge of the hospitals for prisoners of war at Portsmouth and Forton. His diligence in his most arduous hospital duties recommended Burnett in 1810 for the office of physician and inspector of hospitals to the Mediterranean fleet, then including 120 sail of all classes. His health became so much impaired that he returned to England towards the end of 1813; but in March following he was able to undertake the medical charge of