Edward William Brayley

Edward William Brayley bigraphy, stories - Geographers

Edward William Brayley : biography

1801 – 1 February 1870

Edward William Brayley FRS (1801 – February 1, 1870) was an English geographer, librarian, and science author.

Early life

Brayley was born in London, the son of Edward Wedlake Brayley, a notable antiquary and his wife Anne (c. 1771-1850). His early schooling, in the company of his brothers Henry and Horatio was private and sheltered. His upbringing was austere with little contact with other children or the world outside his home. He later studied at the London Institution and the Royal Institution under William Thomas Brande.Hays (2004)

Brayley abandoned an early inclination to follow his father’s interestsBrayley (1825) for science. He published on diverse topics in several scientific journals including the Philosophical Magazine, for which he became an editorial assistant between 1823 and 1844. In 1829 and 1830, Brayley was employed by Rowland Hill to lecture on the physical sciences at his schools as Hazelwood, Edgbaston, Birmingham and Bruce Castle, Tottenham, London.

Librarian and lecturer

In 1834, he became librarian of the London Institution and in 1865 professor of physical geography. He lectured there on diverse subjects and also at the Royal Institution, the London Mechanics’ Institute, and the Belgrave, Russell, and Marylebone Institutions. As a staff member of the London Institution he was often called on at the last minute to substitute for an indisposed lecturer and his talks included:

  • Meteors and meteorology;
  • Mineralogy;
  • Physical geography;
  • Peat;
  • "Metalliferous deposits";
  • "Recent eclipses;
  • "Lord Rosse’s telescopes";
  • "Hall’s condensing apparatus";
  • The remains at Pompeii; and
  • Photogenic drawing.

Personality and death

Though he is known to have married, nothing is known of his wife. Brayley died of heart disease at his home in Islington, London.

Offices and honours

  • Founder member of the Zoological Society;
  • Founder member of the Chemical Society;
  • Corresponding member of the Societas Naturae Scrutatorum at Basel;
  • Member of the American Philosophical Society;
  • Member of the British Meteorological Society, (1850);
  • Fellow of the Royal Society, (1854);
  • The lunar crater Brayley is named for him.


Most of his scientific work involved the analysis and synthesis of the published ideas of others. Brayley worked on the publication of Samuel Parkes’s Chemical Catechism (1834) and contributed many biographical and scientific articles to the English Cyclopaedia. Brayley was a close collaborator and friend of William Robert Grove and notably worked with him on the publication of Groves’s seminal book on the conservation of energy, On the Correlation of Physical Forces (1846). He also assisted in the editing of Luke Howard’s Barometrographia (1847).