Portrait bust, Samuel Ferris Lynn ARHA (1834-1876), ‘John Buddle Blyth’

2 Nov 2020

Marble: 'John Buddle Blyth', 1875, bust, 78 H, signed by S. F. Lynn ARHA.

Ref: UCCHS.T1515 © University College Cork

Sculptor: Samuel Ferris Lynn ARHA (1834-76). “Lynn, who was a pupil of both Patrick McDowell and John Foley, came from Fethard, County Tipperary, and was more employed on architectural sculpture than on portraiture. This is a fine bust, strongly though quietly characterised.” [O’Brien, p.41]. This bust is not listed in Strickland. Lynn lived much of his life in London but returned to Ireland in 1873 where he resided at Belfast until his death at the age of 40 in April 1876.

Inscription on rear: “S. F. Lynn Sr / London/ 1875”

Date: 1875

Provenance:  As yet unknown. In 1875 Lynn was apparently living in Belfast where he died in 1875. However, it may be possible that he had begun this work in 1873 or prior to that when he was in London, or even before Blyth’s death in 1871 completing it posthumously.


Professor John Buddle Blyth (1816-1871)
Professor of Chemistry, Queen's College, Cork, 1849 

John Buddle Blyth was born in Jamaica in 1816 to John Blythe and Mary Buddle (c.1792-), described on the child’s baptismal record as a ‘free woman of colour’.[1] John was baptised at Mesopotamia Estate, Westmoreland Parish, Jamaica, on 11 April 1816 by Edmund Pope, rector of Westmorland, and the baptismal register describes him as a ‘free child of colour’ (Entry in baptism register, 11/4/1816,  The Mesopotamia Estate was owned by the Barham family.

His father, John Blythe, is recorded as an attorney on several estates in Westmoreland and Hanover parishes between 1817 and 1820: Blackness, Bluecastle, Carawina, Cessnock, Glasgow, Jerusalem, Mesopotamia (1817), Mint, Moreland, Mount Edgecombe, Paradise Pen, Prospect, Retreat, Savannah La Mar, Spring Garden, Springfield, Strathmore and Logwoods.[2] John had three sons: John Buddle Blyth, Charles Cathcart Blyth (1817-before 1832) and Henry Blyth (1831-?). Henry was baptised in Hanover, Jamaica, 20/11/1831; he matriculated at Glasgow University in 1847 and studied Greek, Logic and Ethics. John Blythe died in 1832 leaving his estate to Mary Buddle and his sons John and Henry (presumably Charles had died by the time of his father’s death).

John Buddle Blyth was sent to Scotland to be educated. Here he met his wife, Jessie Dunbar from Applegarth, Dumfriesshire, whom he married on 28 December 1847. They had two sons[3]: William Dunbar Blyth MA LLD, who was awarded a prize medal for First Class in Experimental Science in 1871 at the Queen’s University, Belfast, and became a member of the Indian Civil Service (d. 04/01/1904)[4], and Robert Henry Blyth FSA, manager of Backhouses Bank, Durham (d. 1896).[5]

John Buddle Blyth died on 24 December 1871 at Parkview Terrace, Wellington Road, Cork, and was buried at St Michael’s Church, Blackrock, near his colleague George Boole. Probate was granted to his wife Jessie. His estate at probate was valued at less than £2,000. His library was sold at auction.



The young John was sent from Jamaica to Scotland to be educated. According to an obituary in the Journal of the Chemical Society,[6] he attended the Bankend School in Caerlaverock, near Dumfries, and he lived at Applegarth Manse [now Applegarth House] under the care of Dr Dunbar, minister of the parish. From there he went to the University of Glasgow, graduating with an arts degree in 1830. He graduated MD from the University of Edinburgh in 1839; his thesis was titled "On the dependence of the animal and organic functions on nervous influence, and its identity with electricity".[7]

After graduation, Blyth practiced briefly at Yarmouth as a medical doctor but soon took up the serious study of chemistry. First he studied with Professor Graham and then in France under Pelouze, Dumas, Peligot, Gay-Lussac, Orfila and Chevreul.[8] Next he moved to Germany where he worked in the laboratory of Giessen, under Liebig, and in Berlin, with Prof. Heinrich Rose and Prof. Magnus.

At the University of Giessen in Germany, Blyth and the German chemist August Wilhelm von Hofmann were the first to report photopolymerisation when they observed that styrene became metastyrol when exposed to sunlight but remained unchanged in the dark [1843].

On his return to England, he worked with Hofmann at the Royal College of Chemistry. They contributed another paper together in 1845. In 1847 Blyth became professor of Chemistry at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, England, where he remained for two years. A portrait in oils of Blyth, attributed to Wilhelm Trautschold (1815–1877), is now in the collection of the Royal Agricultural University (Portrait of Prof. John Buddle Blyth, 1845 (Royal Agricultural University Collection PCF15). Then in 1849 he was appointed the first professor of Chemistry at Queen's College, Cork, in Ireland.

In this period of his career, Blyth translated works by the German chemist Justus von Liebig, of whom he had been a student at Giessen, into English. These included the second volume of the seventh edition of von Liebig's work on agricultural chemistry which was published in New York in 1863 as The Natural Laws of Husbandry. This work included a translation of the introduction to the first volume, the original version of which was considered so controversial for its critique of British farming that it prevented that volume being published in English.



Blyth, John, and August Wilhelm Hofmann, ‘On styrole, and some of the products of its decomposition’, Memoirs and Proceedings of the Chemical Society (MPCS) (1843) 2: 334–58.
[doi: 10.1039/MP8430200334]

Blyth, John, and August Wilhelm Hofmann, ‘Über das Styrol und einige seiner Zersetzungsproducte’, Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie (1845) 53 (3): 289–329.
[doi: 10.1002/jlac.18450530302]

Von Liebig, Justus. Letters on Modern Agriculture. London: Walton & Maberley, 1859. (translator)

Von Liebig, Justus. The Natural Laws of Husbandry. New York: Appleton, 1863. (translator)



Anniversary meeting, March 30th, 1872’, Journal of the Chemical Society 25 (1872), 341-364

‘Death of Prof. Blyth, Cork’, Belfast News-Letter, 28 December 1871, p.3

Lancashire, Robert, ‘Jamaican chemists in early global communicationChemistry International (Apr-Jun 2018), 5-11 

List of the Graduates in Medicine in the University of Edinburgh from MDCCV to MDCCCLXVI (Edinburgh: Neill & Co., 1867)

O’Brien, Eoin, Anne Crookshank with Sir Gordon Wolstenholme, A portrait of Irish medicine: an illustrated history of medicine in Ireland (Swords, Co. Dublin: Ward River Press, 1984), 41, 44 (illus.), 294.

Scheirs, John, ‘Historical overview of styrenic polymers’, in Scheirs, J. and Priddy, D. B. (eds), Modern styrenic polymers: polystyrenes and styrenic copolymers (Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2003), 4.

Strickland, Walter, A dictionary of Irish artists (1913), vol. 2, pp33-5



[1] Legacies of British Slave-ownership (UCL): [accessed 17/02/2020].

[2] Legacies of British Slave-ownership (UCL): [accessed 15/10/2019].

[3] Obituary, Journal of the Chemical Society (1872), p.344.

[4] Death notice, Cheltenham Looker-On, 09/01/1904, p.17.

[5] Extensive obituary in Durham County Advertiser, 17/07/1896, p.7.

[6] Obituary, Jour. Chem. Soc. 25 (1872), pp343-4.

[7] List of the Graduates in Medicine in the University of Edinburgh from MDCCV to MDCCCLXVI, p.117.

[8] Obituary, Jour. Chem. Soc. (1872), p.343.

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