Monday, March 05, 2012

Who Is This Man?

I saw this portrait in the Huntington Library in San Marino (near Pasedena) California, USA. This man was the friend of a kite flyer, a pottery maker, and Erasmus Darwin. One of Ms. Sandwalk's direct ancestors worked for him.

He's very famous. You'll recognize the name instantly even if you don't recognize his face. Who is he?

I'll keep the comments invisible for 24 hours so you can post your guesses.


  1. Replies
    1. I put one too many a's in: aaejmsttw = James Watt. Soho House where the Lunar Soc. met is only 4 miles from me here in Birmingham, UK.

  2. Google Image search makes this way too easy.

  3. James Watt.

    All persons mentioned were members of the Lunar Society -- except that I confess I don't know about Ms. Sandwalk's ancestors.

  4. From your description it ought to be Joseph Priestley, but it doesn't look like him.

  5. Kite flyer = Benjamin Franklin
    Pottery maker = Josia Wedgewood
    Erasmus Darwin = himself.

    So this sounds like the Birmingham Lunar Society member, and my guess is Matthew Boulton.

  6. Ahh, my bad - it is James Watt. Another member of the Lunar Society.

  7. I think it's James Watt. But I cheated (google).

    His assistant was William Playfair.

  8. It looks like Joseph Priestly.

  9. James Watt by Henry Raeburn

    A Scotsman painted by a Scotsman.

  10. The man in the portrait is Josiah Wedgwood (1730 - 1795).

    Is there a prize?

  11. Now that we know he is James Watt, this brings to mind one of the finer pieces of silliness in Sellers and Yeatman's inspired parody of English history, 1066 and All That. They mentioned the industrial and scientific advances in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries due to people like James Watt and Robert Boyle, they declared that this inspired the saying that "Watt's potts never Boyle".