Solly, Edward (DNB00)

SOLLY, EDWARD (1819–1886), chemist and antiquary, was born in London on 11 Oct. 1819, and studied chemistry in Berlin. In 1836, at the age of seventeen, he published a paper ‘On the conducting power of iodine, &c., for electricity’ (Phil. Mag. viii. 130), and in 1838 was appointed chemist to the Royal Asiatic Society. In the same year he was elected a member of the Society of Arts. He was appointed lecturer in chemistry at the Royal Institution in 1841, where he was associated with Faraday, and he published numerous papers on the chemistry of plants and on agriculture. He was elected an honorary member of the Royal Agricultural Society in 1842, and published a valuable work on ‘Rural Chemistry’ (1843; 3rd ed. 1850). On 19 Jan. 1843 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London, and in 1845 became professor of chemistry in the military college at Addiscombe. A syllabus of his lectures on chemistry appeared in 1849. In 1845 and 1846, as honorary professor to the Horticultural Society, he conducted a series of experiments respecting the alleged influence of electricity upon vegetable growth.

Solly's last scientific paper appeared in 1849. From that date he was associated with the Gresham Life Assurance Society, of which he remained a director until his death. He was one of the promoters of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and acted as a juror; while from 9 June 1852 to 4 May 1853 he was secretary to the Society of Arts.

Solly collected a large library, which was particularly rich in eighteenth-century literature; and his wide genealogical and literary knowledge was always at the service of ‘Notes and Queries,’ the ‘Bibliographer,’ and the ‘Antiquary,’ and other periodicals of a similar character. In 1879 he edited ‘Hereditary Titles of Honour’ for the Index Society, of which body he was treasurer. He died at his residence, Camden House, Sutton, Surrey, 2 April 1886.

He married Miss Alice S. Wayland on 13 Sept. 1851, and left five daughters. His library was sold at Sotheby's, London, in November 1886. He presented to the National Gallery an anonymous picture called ‘A Venetian Painter.’

[Obituary Notices in the Antiquary, Academy, and Journ. Soc. Arts (9 April 1886); Royal Society's Cat. Scientific Papers; Ronald's Cat. of Books on Electricity, p. 480; Men of the Time, 11th ed.; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. passim; personal knowledge.]

G. A. J. C.