(Iris Macfarlane, with the assistance of Alan Macfarlane)



This is the rough draft of a book on the life and times of Robert Chambers, the founder of W & R Chambers and one of the most interesting intellectual figures of nineteenth century Britain. Although there are now books on his letters, on the impact of one of his books (The Vestiges of Natural Creation), there are no books on the man and his life.

The book weaves together three strands, each necessary to understand the others. At one level it is a biography of Chambers and his family; the portrait of a 'Robinson Crusoe' like career from absolute poverty to great wealth and influence. At the second it provides the context of his life by way of a portrait of nineteenth century Edinburgh as seen through his eyes. At the third it explores the intellectual and organizational revolutions embodied in his life, the explorations in history, folklore, geology, publishing, education and many other fields which made him one of the most exciting thinkers of his age.

It is based on extensive archival research among the Chambers' archives in Edinburgh and conversations with his descendants. It is written by Iris Macfarlane. It is a rough and preliminary draft, so please do not quote extensively without citation. It is hoped to publish the work in hard copy at some stage. If you are interested in helping with this, please contact Alan Macfarlane.


The Boy

The Dark Ages

The Antiquarian

The Family Man

The Publisher

The Scientist

The Biographer and Historian

The Whole Man and His Time