Brewster, Sir David (1781–1868), natural philosopher and academic administrator
by A. D. Morrison-Low

Brewster, Sir David (1781–1868), natural philosopher and academic administrator, was born on 11 December 1781 in a house in the Canongate, Jedburgh, second son and third of the six children of James Brewster (c.1735–1815), rector of Jedburgh grammar school, and his wife, Margaret (1753–1790), only daughter of James Key and Grisel Scott of Dundee. James Brewster had been educated at the University of Aberdeen, and subsequently taught at Dundee grammar school before being appointed rector at Jedburgh in 1771. In 1775 he married Margaret Key; she died, aged thirty-seven, soon after the birth and death of their sixth child, when David Brewster was only nine. The remaining four brothers were brought up largely by their sister Grisel, and were all educated for careers in the Church of Scotland: James (1777–1847), later minister at Ferryden, Craig, near Montrose; David; George (1784–1855), minister at Scoonie, Fife; and , minister at the abbey church, Paisley.

Education, marriage, and early career

Young David's formative years in Jedburgh, outside school, were spent in company which helped to direct his intellectual interests towards scientific and literary pursuits. The local minister, Dr Thomas Somerville, a scholar and author, made the young man his literary assistant, so that Brewster acquired early the skills in language, writing, and editing which later became his livelihood. Although not a studious boy he read avidly his father's undergraduate notes on physical science. He constructed his first telescope at the age of ten, under the guidance of a local ploughwright and amateur astronomer, James Veitch (1771–1838) of Inchbonny, near Jedburgh. Their friendship lasted until Veitch's death, despite Brewster leaving Jedburgh grammar school, in 1794, aged twelve, to attend Edinburgh University. He corresponded with his mentor, Veitch, on scientific and religious topics throughout the time he was there until he graduated in 1800 as MA. Brewster then remained in Edinburgh and its vicinity, working as a tutor and journalist. He had begun contributing to the Edinburgh Magazine in 1799 and became its editor in 1802 after its amalgamation with the Scots Magazine until about 1807. He began experimenting in optics at about the same time. His first scientific paper was accepted in 1806. His daughter's biography asserts that at this period he still had every intention of following a career in the established church, and, licensed to preach in 1804, Brewster undertook pastoral duties in and around Edinburgh. However, it soon became apparent that he found public speaking such a stressful ordeal—on one occasion, he fainted at a dinner party when invited to say grace—that he was obliged to turn his attention to other methods of earning an income. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the chair of mathematics at the University of Edinburgh in 1805, and again for that at the University of St Andrews in 1807, but as university teaching then was solely by lecture, he must have come to realize that this avenue was similarly closed to him. Fortunately, in 1808 he was invited to become editor of a new publishing venture: the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia.

The appointment was something of a mixed blessing, involving the commissioning of major articles from often recalcitrant and difficult contributors and ultimately producing much of the work himself, under legal threats from the publishers. The Encyclopaedia appeared volume by volume at increasingly uneven intervals, and it was not until 1830 that the entire work was available. However, the positive side to this endeavour was that it provided Brewster with an income, and kept him in touch with a network of scientists and scholars across Europe and North America. But the inadequacy of this income is shown by Brewster's simultaneous contribution of articles to this encyclopaedia's main rival, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which at this period was still being produced and published in Edinburgh. He contributed articles to the fourth (1810), fifth (1817), and sixth (1820–23) editions, and more extensively to the seventh (1827–42) and eighth (1853–60) editions.

Brewster was married on 31 July 1810 in Edinburgh to Juliet Macpherson (c.1776–1850), younger daughter and the youngest of four illegitimate children of , of Belleville, near Kingussie, the alleged translator of ancient poetry by Ossian. They had four sons and a daughter, Margaret Maria Gordon, née Brewster (1823–1907), who wrote the sympathetic but largely domestic biography which remains the major contemporary source for Brewster's life.

Journalism and writing

In 1819, with the mineralogist Robert Jameson, Brewster became joint editor of the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, but this was not a success, partly because of the editors' incompatibility; from 1826 the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal was run under Jameson's sole editorship. Meanwhile Brewster managed to persuade another publisher to launch a rival imprint edited by himself, entitled the Edinburgh Journal of Science. This survived until 1832, read in particular for its strong views on the alleged decline of science in Britain. Then it was acquired by the printer and publisher Richard Taylor of London, who owned the long established Philosophical Magazine, and Brewster became one of the three, later four, editors of the London and Edinburgh (later London, Edinburgh and Dublin) Philosophical Magazine, a position he held until his death. His review articles, ranging over a huge variety of subjects, appeared in many periodicals of the day: the Edinburgh Review, the Quarterly Review, Fraser's Magazine, the Witness, the Weekly Instructor, Good Words, the Monthly Chronicle, and others. Brewster's friendship with the Evangelical minister Thomas Chalmers led to his association with the North British Review, founded in 1844, and to which he submitted seventy-five articles, many of which were longer, and submitted later, than the editors wished; however, his vigorous prose was always worth reading for its visual style and vibrant language.

Brewster's reputation as a historian of science has perhaps outlived reputations he earned in other fields, yet even this accolade is not straightforward. His writing—as opposed to his journalism and editing—generally falls into the later part of his career, after 1830. However, he often prefaced his review and encyclopaedia articles with historical information, placing his writing within context. Even his optical work was occasionally given a historical introduction, particularly that which was written to appeal to a general audience, such as his Treatise on Optics in Dr Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia (1831).

The title of his Martyrs of Science: Lives of Galileo, Tycho Brahe and Kepler (1841) amused his family, who observed that there were no martyrs in it. But Tycho and Kepler suffered treatment similar to Brewster's own: lack of support from the state in undertaking internationally important scientific work. However, Brewster was unable to sympathize with Galileo's recantation and failure to grasp the martyr's crown of death for his scientific beliefs, and this evangelical fervour was to emerge again in his work on Isaac Newton.

A lifelong interest in the person who had shaped the scientific framework in which he worked led Brewster to write a short and popular Life of Sir Isaac Newton (1831), which was well received. In his self-appointed role as Newton's defender, his Memoirs of the Life, Writings and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton (1855) was deeply researched and written as a vindication against the charges of insanity and immorality levelled by J. B. Biot in 1822 and again in Francis Baily's Life of Flamsteed (1835). In 1837 Brewster was able to gain access to the Portsmouth Collection of manuscripts, which contains many Newton letters which had not previously been consulted. However, although able to refute both Biot and Baily with newly discovered correspondence, he encountered unexpected and upsetting evidence: Newton was deeply involved in alchemical literature and experimentation, and his religious beliefs were extremely unorthodox.

Despite these traumatic discoveries—which essentially negated the purpose behind his historical biography—Brewster attempted to synthesize his findings. His biography of Newton, which remained the best available until 1980, managed to include all the problems of the enigmatic figure of Newton for the first time, and attempted to solve them in the light of Brewster's own times. The work is remarkable as much for the insights it gives about Brewster, as it is for information about Newton.

University life

After leaving Edinburgh University in 1800 Brewster seemed by inclination unsuited for a career which involved public speaking; even so, he applied for university posts on a number of occasions, which, had he been successful, would have ensured a steady income on which he could support his growing family. The first such occasion was in 1805, and again in 1807; the third—and possibly most bruising occasion—was in 1833, when he put himself forward as a candidate for the chair of natural philosophy at Edinburgh, only to find that his young protégé James David Forbes had rallied support through the British Association (of which Brewster was a founder), and was also backed by Edinburgh town council which was still formal patron of the university and controlled most professorial appointments.

It was not until 1838 that Brewster obtained the security he must have craved with a non-teaching post at the University of St Andrews; but, characteristically, he made of this sinecure a rod to beat his own back. Politically Brewster was a reform whig, and his connection especially with the career politician Henry Brougham, later lord chancellor, influenced his life in a number of ways. The pair had met at university and Brougham had apparently suggested that the young Brewster should start to conduct experiments in optics as early as 1798. Later Brougham was to ensure that Brewster received a government pension of £100 per annum, increased in 1836 to £300 a year, and it was Brougham who assisted in the founding of the British Association and paved the way towards Brewster's knighthood. Through political influence two of Brewster's sons became officials in the Indian Civil Service, and it was the government which appointed Brewster to the principalship of the United Colleges of St Leonard and St Salvator at the University of St Andrews in 1838.

There he attempted to turn the slumbering and somewhat corrupt university into a dynamic college to teach and promote science, and naturally met resistance. There was a very earnest attempt to deprive Brewster of his post by showing that he was a religious dissenter; but, as he was an elder of the Free Church and not a minister he had signed the Act of Protest but not the Deed of Demission, and so could not be ousted. In 1859, again through Brougham's influence, he was elected principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, and in that office presided when Brougham was installed as chancellor of the university. He retained the post until his death.

Although he was appointed to a university position so late in life Brewster became involved in the reform of the Scottish universities—an act of parliament was passed only in 1858, although hearings had been heard over three decades before various royal commissions set up to investigate effectiveness of the running of the universities. His attempts to introduce science into the curriculum in a more vigorous way than was already represented in the general arts degree (which required both mathematics and natural philosophy) was only moderately successful. The real campaign for scientific and technological university education was to be fought in the next generation. In any case, Brewster's own campaign for state support of a scientific career was in terms of those models which he had seen on the continent, that of an academy or institute for researchers, not one where such valuable work had to be snatched between teaching classes of boisterous students.

Optics and vision

During his lifetime Brewster was regarded by contemporaries as one of the pre-eminent international scientific figures, yet after his death his reputation rapidly sank into oblivion. He made a number of significant contributions to science, where, despite his broader interests which often figured in his journalism, his efforts remained focused on optics. His initial interest in astronomy and instrumentation was demonstrated by the contents of his first major scientific publication, A Treatise on New Philosophical Instruments (1813), the latter part of which was devoted to his measurements of the refractive and dispersive powers of almost 200 substances in his pursuit of improvements to achromatic instruments.

In 1808 Étienne Malus discovered the polarization of light by transmission. Brewster had investigated these effects independently, but, cut off from French research by the Napoleonic wars, he learned of Malus's work only just before its publication. This knowledge, combined with his own recent discoveries in polarization, pushed Brewster's focus of interest from instrumentation into optical theory, and for the next fifteen to twenty years he energetically pursued four related fields of research in this area. First, he followed the line that successive polarization by refraction through a pile of glass plates, which he concluded was a constant, ought to allow both the investigation of the form and structure of crystals, and indeed, the nature of light itself. Second, he searched for a general law of polarization—the law which now bears his name—finding that the index of refraction of the reflecting medium is the tangent of the angle of polarization. Third, he studied metallic reflection, concluding that light was elliptically polarized, and deduced laws which predicted quantities and angles of polarization of light. His fourth research field created the new fields of optical mineralogy and photoelasticity. His experiments in 1813 on the structure of topaz led to the unexpected discovery of its two optical axes, and by 1819 Brewster had classified hundreds of minerals and crystals into their optical categories by painstaking experiment. While undertaking this project, he also discovered that heat and pressure could alter the doubly refracting structures of minerals and crystals and again, he deduced the general laws which enabled these phenomena to be predicted. Still searching for ways to improve instrumentation, Brewster undertook an extensive investigation of absorption spectroscopy. Adding a further 1600 dark lines to Fraunhofer's 354, these researches led him to reinterpret the colours of the spectrum, disagreeing with Newton's deductions, yet reaffirming an emission theory of light. He never fully accepted the undulatory theory of light because he felt that it did not explain all the phenomena.

In the 1830s his intensive and energetic youthful researches changed direction, and he devoted more research time to applications of optics and the physiology of vision. His experiments on the structure of the eye helped to lay the foundations of modern biophysics, while in his work on subjective visual phenomena he made important discoveries, but these were subsequently overshadowed. Brewster was very much an experimentalist rather than a theorist. He deplored the lack of state patronage in supporting scientific research; but on a number of occasions he successfully persuaded societies and universities to supply him with the equipment with which he could do his work. Because he never fully accepted the wave theory of light and because he outlived most of his scientific contemporaries, Brewster found his experimental work marginalized towards the end of his life. Much of the valuable work he did was subsequently not attributed to him, something he would have found hard to take.

Instruments and photography

The first part of Brewster's Treatise described improvements to precision instruments and new devices; although some of these remained proposals, others were subjected to careful technical development. An example of the latter was his attempt to increase the resolving power of microscope objectives by using jewel (instead of glass) lenses, capitalizing on the high refractive index and low dispersive power of optical minerals. These lenses proved successful but extremely expensive, and eventually the problem was resolved by a different route with the introduction of the cheaper Wollaston lens, and ultimately with the design of effective achromatic lenses.

The invention which he claimed and defended for most of his life was a type of zonal lens built up from annular rings and described as his polyzonal lens, which is now called a Fresnel lens after the independent development of such a lens by one of his principal French rivals. Lenses of this type could be made of very large aperture, and they came to some prominence when they were developed by Augustin Fresnel for use in French lighthouses about 1820. Brewster had first investigated lenses of this type in 1812, and by 1820 was urging the Northern Lighthouse Board to adopt the system. In 1823 he published an account of his illumination system, and this led to a series of successful experiments ten years later. However, the dispute over the priority of invention kept Brewster in print over the years, until at least 1860.

Brewster was involved in photography from its very beginnings: he stayed with William Henry Fox Talbot in 1836, and although Talbot did not publish his findings until 1839 Brewster was sent examples of his work from an early stage: ‘my father's connexion with photography and photographers might well furnish a chapter of his life in competent hands’, his daughter wrote (Gordon, 162–3). Indeed, Brewster's correspondence with Talbot meant that St Andrews was the first place outside England that the calotype was practised, and it was on Brewster's advice that Talbot did not patent his invention outside England. However, although Brewster collected photographic prints and wrote fairly extensively on the subject he does not appear to have had sufficient time to practise the new photographic art much himself.

Brewster's name is connected principally with the invention of two optical devices: the stereoscope and the kaleidoscope. The stereoscope, a device connected with Brewster's work on the physiology of vision, was invented by Charles Wheatstone in 1832 in order to investigate binocular vision. Because this was before the invention of photography, special three-dimensional pictures had to be drawn, and the device was really only used in an experimental capacity, although later Wheatstone declared that Talbot and Henry Collen, another early calotype pioneer, had supplied photographic prints for his instrument. It was not until 1849 that Brewster read two papers—one concerning his lenticular stereoscope, the other his binocular camera—and the following year he took the prototype with him to France, where he showed it to the Parisian opticians François Soleil and his son-in-law Jules Duboscq. They constructed a stereoscopic viewer, together with some daguerreotype photographs produced in a rudimentary stereoscopic camera, which they displayed at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. ‘The stereoscope’, wrote Brewster, ‘attracted the particular attention of the Queen, and M. Soleil executed a beautiful instrument which was presented to Her Majesty in his name by Sir David Brewster’ (Brewster, 177). With royal patronage the device could not fail commercially, and there was an insatiable demand over the next few years. However, as with the lighthouse lenses, Brewster was again caught up in a priority dispute, on this occasion conducted in the correspondence columns of The Times, with Wheatstone. Sir John Herschel summarized the dispute succinctly thus: ‘Wheatstone invented the stereoscope; Brewster invented a way of looking at stereoscopic pictures’ (Wade, 36).

The kaleidoscope is a primarily a toy which uses simple principles of reflection noticed by Brewster when experimenting in 1816; but it was observed even by his contemporaries that these principles had been known since antiquity. In a manner which was to become something of a pattern, Brewster defended his brainchild in print, then mustered supporters to his aid: a series of articles appeared over the years in encyclopaedias and journals, summarized by the grand Treatise on the Kaleidoscope (1858). In this case he had rashly gone to the expense of obtaining a patent for protecting the manufacture of the kaleidoscope, which was negated when the enthusiasm of the London instrument maker to whom he entrusted the prototype led to the principles of the device becoming known. Instantly, the expensively produced brass tube was copied, and he wrote to his wife: ‘had I managed my patent rightly, I would have made one hundred thousand pounds by it!’ (Gordon, 97). It appears to have been the first instance of a national fashionable craze, and an indication that consumers could create markets overnight in a newly industrialized society.

Scientific associations and societies

Brewster was involved in setting up a number of societies throughout his life, and although his primary motive for this was often to further his belief in the cause of scientific knowledge, frequently he tried to use such a body as a forum for his own ends. In 1821 Brewster became closely involved in the setting up of two new Edinburgh organizations: the Society of Arts (later the Royal Scottish Society of Arts), to promote and reward Scottish inventions; and the Edinburgh School of Arts, the first of the wave of mechanics' institutes which were to be set up all over the United Kingdom during the next decade or so. Both of these were successful enterprises, although Brewster's impetuous behaviour led to his rapid dissociation from the latter, while pressure of work meant that his involvement with the former became more remote over the years.

Brewster was able to set up large-scale associations of far-flung scientific researchers, because of the contacts he had made through his editorial work, and through his travels to London and on the continent. His standing in science was such that others were glad to be associated with him, and his considerable personal charm must have also helped. His most successful enterprise—although within a few years it had turned against him—was the British Association for the Advancement of Science, which held its first meeting at York in 1831.

By arguing that there was a probable decline of science in England, as opposed to its rise in Europe, Brewster successfully attracted influential people to the association's first meeting, but he did little to organize it. Many of the Cambridge scientists stayed away, alienated by Brewster's declinist attitude. In 1832 the association met at Oxford, where Brewster presented a report on optics and was awarded an honorary degree; he was also the association's vice-president and sat on its council. However, in 1833 it all began to go horribly wrong when Forbes was supported by the association in his successful bid for the Edinburgh chair. At the association's 1833 meeting, held in Cambridge, the supporters of the wave theory of light (and thus opponents of Brewster) moved into the attack, and a new report on optics was commissioned. Although he was later to become its president at the Edinburgh meeting in 1850, Brewster remained disappointed that his brainchild had not fulfilled its early promise, and that it had become a creature of the establishment rather than a lobbying forum able to affect government policy, especially in scientific matters.

Brewster was also involved in the foundation of other societies. For example, on his removal to St Andrews in 1838, he set up the St Andrews Literary and Philosophical Society. This might have remained as obscure as many other literary and philosophical societies, except that it was at this venue that Talbot's calotypes were first displayed, sent to Brewster through the post, stimulating important early photographic work in Scotland. It was Brewster who introduced to each other David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, whose partnership was so influential to early photography. Mrs Gordon also mentions Brewster's presidency of the Peace Congress in 1851, and in 1862 the Inventors' Institute chose him as their first president.

Historical significance

Brewster's standing in science was perhaps at its greatest during the earlier part of his lifetime when his support of an unmodified Newtonian theory of light could still be seen as a tenable position. However, with time, other bright young men superseded him. He was first seriously threatened by his own protégé James David Forbes, who was the successful candidate for the natural philosophy chair at Edinburgh in opposition to Brewster, and whose work on the nature of heat did much to extend understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum. In due course he was overshadowed in stature by Forbes's protégé, James Clerk Maxwell, who was to produce original and far-reaching ideas in the same field. Brewster's real contribution was the measurement of the optical properties of hundreds of crystals in an attempt to classify and understand their structures: the unglamorous donkey work of science.

Brewster's influence in scientific instrumentation for measurement and observation was fourfold: he improved many devices which already existed; he invented others, of which the kaleidoscope and the lenticular stereoscope are the most famous; his position as a major figure in optical research enabled him to wield influence in areas such as patent law reform and involved him in jury work at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and again at the Paris Exhibition of 1855; and in turn this involved him in the active patronage of instrument makers in the United Kingdom.

Brewster's scientific papers totalled 299 items. But perhaps more influential on a wider audience (which may never have read any of that enormous output of scientific work) were his more popular books, articles, and reviews, many of which were anonymous. Together with his papers, these have been estimated to number about 1240. For historians of photography Brewster has come to be seen as the catalyst who enabled Talbot's process to be used in Scotland in a patent free environment.

Scientific honours were awarded to Brewster from an early age: in 1807 he was made honorary LLD by the University of Aberdeen and honorary MA by Cambridge University. In 1808 he was elected fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of which he was its general secretary from 1819 to 1828, and president from 1864 until his death. He was awarded its Keith medal twice. In 1815 he was elected fellow of the Royal Society and won its Copley medal; subsequently he won the Rumford medal in 1818 and one of the royal medals in 1830, each for discoveries connected with his work in polarization of light. Brewster became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1820 and a member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1822. In 1831 he was created a knight of the Royal Guelphic Order by William IV; the following year he received a British knighthood and was made honorary DCL by the University of Oxford. Awards also flowed in from abroad. In 1816 the French Institute awarded him a cash prize and in 1825 made him a corresponding member; in 1849 he was made one of only eight foreign associates of the Académie des Sciences, in succession to the Swedish chemist Jakob Berzelius. He was made a corresponding member of—among others—the royal societies of St Petersburg, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Vienna; to these scientific honours the king of Prussia added the order of merit in 1847, and the French Emperor Napoleon III, the cross of the Légion d'honneur in 1855.

Brewster married Jane Kirk Purnell (b. 1827) in Nice on 27 March 1857. She was the second daughter of Thomas Purnell of Scarborough. They had a daughter. Sir David Brewster died of pneumonia and bronchitis on 10 February 1868, at Allerly, the house he had built outside Melrose, in the Scottish borders. He was buried in the cemetery at Melrose Abbey, beside his first wife and second son. He was survived by his second wife.



M. M. Gordon, The home life of Sir David Brewster (1869) · A. D. Morrison-Low and J. R. R. Christie, eds., Martyr of science: Sir David Brewster, 1781–1868 [Edinburgh 1981] (1984) [incl. bibliography] · N. J. Wade, ed., Brewster and Wheatstone on vision (1983) [incl. Royal Society obit.] · A. D. Morrison-Low and A. D. C. Simpson, ‘A new dimension: a context for photography before 1860’, Light from the dark room: a celebration of Scottish photography, ed. S. Stevenson (1995) · Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 6 (1866–9), 282–4 · The Scotsman (11 Feb 1868) [biographical sketch] · E. W. Morse, ‘Brewster, David’, DSB, 2.451–4 · R. S. Westfall, ‘Introduction’, in D. Brewster, Memoirs of the life, writings and discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton (1965), vol. 1, ix–xlv · A. D. C. Simpson, ‘François Soleil, Andrew Ross and William Cookson: the Fresnel lens applied’, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, 41 (1994), 16–19 · P. D. Sherman, Colour vision in the nineteenth century: the Young-Helmholz-Maxwell theory (1981) · H. J. Steffens, ‘The tenacity of Newtonian optics in England: David Brewster, the last champion’, The development of Newtonian optics in England (1977), 137–51 · J. G. Burke, ‘The concepts of crystal symmetry’, Origins of the science of crystals (1966), 147–75 · G. Smith, Disciples of light: photographs in the Brewster album (1990) · A. D. C. Simpson, ‘Brewster's Society of Arts and the pantograph dispute’, Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, new ser., 1 (1991), 47–73 · T. N. Clarke, A. D. Morrison-Low, and A. D. C. Simpson, Brass and glass: scientific instrument making workshops in Scotland (1989) · [D. Brewster], ‘Binocular vision and the stereoscope’, North British Review, 17 (1852), 177 · D. Brewster and others, eds., The Edinburgh encyclopaedia, 18 vols. (1813); facs. edn with introduction by R. Yeo (1999) · GM, 102/1 (1832), 265


Hunt. L., letters · J. Paul Getty Museum, California, album · NL Scot., corresp.; letters · NRA Scotland, priv. coll., papers · U. Edin. L., corresp. · U. St Andr. L., corresp. and MSS relating to university administration · UCL, letters to the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge |  BL, corresp. with Charles Babbage, Add. MSS 37182–37200, passim · BL, letters to Macvey Napier, Add. MSS 34612–34624, passim · Bodl. Oxf., letters to Stephen Rigaud · CUL, letters to Sir George Stokes · ICL, letters to Lord Playfair · NL Scot., corresp. with Blackwoods · NL Scot., letters to Alexander Fraser · NL Scot., letters to John Lee · NL Scot., letters to William Lizars · NRA Scotland, priv. coll., letters to James Veitch · RS, corresp. with Sir John Herschel · Sci. Mus., letters to Fox Talbot · Trinity Cam., letters to William Whewell · U. Edin. L., letters to Thomas Chalmers · U. Newcastle, Robinson L., corresp. with Sir Walter Trevelyan · U. St Andr. L., corresp. with James Forbes · UCL, letters to Lord Brougham


W. Bewick, chalk drawing, 1824, Scot. NPG · W. Holl, stipple, 1832 (after H. Raeburn), BM, NPG; repro. in W. Jerdan, National portrait gallery (1832) · D. O. Hill and R. Adamson, photograph, 1843, NPG [see illus.] · J. Wilson, oils, 1852, U. Glas. · R. Lehmann, crayon drawing, 1857, BM · C. G. Lewis, engraving, pubd 1863–4 (The intellect and valour of Great Britain; after T. J. Barker), BM, NPG · J. Watson-Gordon, oils, 1864, NPG · N. Macbeth, oils, c.1869, Royal Society, Edinburgh · W. Brodie, statue, 1871, U. Edin. · D. O. Hill, photographs, Scot. NPG · D. O. Hill, photographs, NPG · D. Maclise, group portrait, lithograph (The Fraserians), BM; repro. in Fraser's Magazine (1835) · D. Maclise, lithograph, NPG; repro. in Fraser's Magazine (1832) · D. Maclise, pencil studies, V&A · D. Maclise, pencil study, V&A · Wighton, oils, U. Edin. · lithograph (after D. Maclise), NPG

Wealth at death  

£6600 6s. 4d.: confirmation, 1 April 1868, NA Scot., SC62/44/45/781–823

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Sir David Brewster (1781–1868): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3371