Online Encyclopedia

SAMUEL LAING (1810-1897)

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Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 84 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SAMUEL LAING (1810-1897), British author and railway administrator, was born at Edinburgh on the rzth of December 181o. He was the nephew of Malcolm Laing, the historian of Scotland; and his father, Samuel Laing (1780-1868), was also a well-known author, whose books on Norway and Sweden attracted much attention. Samuel Laing the younger entered St John's .College, Cambridge, in 1827, and after graduating as second wrangler and Smith's prizeman, was elected a fellow, and remained at Cambridge temporarily as a coach. He was called to the bar in 1837, and became private secretary to Mr Labouchere (afterwards Lord Taunton), the president of the Board of Trade. In 1842 he was made secretary to the railway department, and retained this post till 1847. He had by then become an authority on railway working, and had been a member of the Dalhousie Railway Commission; it was at his suggestion that the " parliamentary " rate of a penny a mile was instituted. In 1848 he was appointed chairman and managing director of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway, and his business faculty showed itself in the largely increased prosperity of the line. He also became chairman (1852) of the Crystal Palace Company, but retired from both posts in 1855. In 1852 he entered parliament as a Liberal for Wick, and after losing his seat in 1857, was re-elected in 1859, in which year he was appointed financial secretary to the Treasury; in 186o he was made finance minister in India. On returning from India, he was re-elected to parliament for Wick in 1865. He was defeated in 1868, but in 1873 he was returned for Orkney and Shetland, and retained his seat till 1885. Meanwhile he had been re-appointed chairman of the Brighton line in 1867, and continued in that post till 1894, being generally recognized as an admirable administrator. He was also chairman of the Railway Debenture Trust and the Railway Share Trust. In later life he became well known as an author, his Modern Science and Modern Thought (1885), Problems of the Future (1889) and Human Origins (1892) being widely read, not only by reason of the writer's influential position, experience of affairs and clear style, but also through their popular and at the same time well-informed treatment of the scientific problems of the day. Laing died at Sydenham on the 6th of August 1897. LAING'S [or LANG'S] NEK, a pass through the Drakensberg, South Africa, immediately north of Majuba (q.v.), at an elevation of 5400 to 6000 ft. It is the lowest part of a ridge which slopes from Majuba to the Buffalo river, and before the opening of the railway in 1891 the road over the nek was the main artery of communication between Durban and Pretoria. The railway pierces the nek by a tunnel 2213 ft. long. When the Boers rose in revolt in December 188o they occupied Laing's Nek to oppose the entry of British reinforcements into the Transvaal. On the 28th of January 1881 a small British force endeavoured to drive the Boers from the pass, but was forced to retire.
End of Article: SAMUEL LAING (1810-1897)
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