Ryan, Edward (1793-1875) (DNB00)

RYAN, Sir EDWARD (1793–1875), chief justice of Bengal and civil-service commissioner, second son of William Ryan, was born on 28 Aug. 1793. In the autumn of 1810 he matriculated from Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was the friend and contemporary of John F. W. Herschel, F.R.S., Charles Babbage, F.R.S., and George Peacock, F.R.S. Graduating B.A. in 1814, he directed his attention to the study of law, and on 23 June 1817 was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn, and went the Oxford circuit. His acquaintance with Herschel led him to join the Royal Astronomical Society in February 1820. In 1826 he was appointed a puisne judge of the supreme court of Calcutta and was knighted. He was promoted to the chief-justiceship of the presidency of Bengal in 1833. During his residence in Calcutta he exercised much hospitality and was very popular. In January 1843 he resigned his office and returned to England, and on 10 June 1843 was sworn a privy councillor, so that the country might have the benefit of his experience as a judge in cases of Indian appeals to the judicial committee of the privy council, a duty which he discharged until November 1865. He was gazetted a railway commissioner on 4 Nov. 1846, and served as assistant controller of the exchequer from 1851 to 1862. On the formation of the civil service commission, he was by an order in council dated 21 May 1855 named one of the first unpaid commissioners. In April 1862 he became first commissioner and a salaried officer, resigning the assistant-comptrollership of the exchequer and his membership of the judicial committee of the privy council. Under his presidency the scope of the commission was enlarged from year to year, the test examination of nominees for civil appointments being succeeded by limited competition as recommended by Lord Derby's committee of 1860, and that being followed by open competition as established by the order in council of June 1870. In addition, the commission from 1858 conducted the examinations for the civil service of India, and also for the admissions to the army. During all this period Ryan, assisted by his colleagues, was the guiding spirit, performing his duties with a rare tact and sagacity.

Ryan also took much interest in the prosperity of the university of London, of which he was a member of the senate, and from 1871 to 1874 vice-chancellor. He was a member of the council of University College, London, and was elected F.G.S. in 1846, and F.R.S. 2 Feb. 1860. He died at Dover on 22 Aug. 1875. He married, in 1814, Louisa, sixth daughter of William Whitmore of Dudmaston, Bridgnorth, Shropshire, and by her, who died on 6 Feb. 1866, he had five children. His third son, William Cavendish Bentinck, became a colonel of the Bengal army.

Ryan was the author of ‘Reports of Cases at Nisi Prius, in the King's Bench and Common Pleas, and on the Oxford and Western Circuits, 1823–26,’ 1827, and with Sir William Oldnall Russell [q. v.] he published ‘Crown Cases reserved for Consideration and decided by the Twelve Judges of England from the year 1799,’ 1825.

[Emily Eden's Letters from India, 1872, i. 114 et seq.; Solicitors' Journal, 1875, xix. 825; Law Times, 1875, lix. 321; Illustrated London News, 1875, lxvii. 215, 253, 367, with portrait; Dunkin's Obituary Notices of Astronomers, 1879, pp. 221–3; Annual Register, 1875, p. 146; Times, 25 Aug. 1875, p. 7.]

G. C. B.