National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Alexander Buchan (1829-1907)

Alexander Buchan (1829-1907)

Meteorologist

Alexander Buchan was appointed Secretary of the Scottish Meteorological Society in 1860. This involved inspections of the society's observatories across Scotland and editorship of its journal. He introduced the use of maps of mean temperature, atmospheric pressure and prevailing winds; and statistical methods to predict short periods of cold or hot weather which became known as 'Buchan Spells'. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1869 and of the Royal Society (London) in 1898. The Royal Meteorological Society award the Buchan Prize in his honour.

The Scottish Meteorological Society's records (reference MET1) contain Alexander Buchan's reports on work done at Ben Nevis, on atmospheric and oceanic circulations observed during the Challenger Expedition and on storms across Europe; his scrapbooks, pocket diary, correspondence (including letters he wrote to his wife and son when on inspection visits), certificates and influential papers. Our online public catalogue provides further details. The Society also produced data for the Registrar General for Scotland's annual reports as described in Death and the weather on the 'Scottish Way of Life and Death' website.

Birth in 1829

Alexander Buchan was born on 12 April 1829, the son of Alexander Buchan and Janet Hill. The entry in the Old Parish Register for Portmoak in the county of Kinross shows the baptism was on 10 May 1829 at 'Kinneswood'.

Birth and baptism entry for Alexander Buchan

Birth and baptism entry for Alexander Buchan (33 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 464/2, page 10

1841 to 1861 censuses

In 1841 Alexander Buchan wasn't enumerated with his parents in Portmoak nor was he in Edinburgh where he attended school.

In 1851 Alexander Buchan, 21, teacher of a public school, was enumerated at Banchory Village. The census return for the parish of Banchory Ternan in Kincardineshire shows that he was unmarried (u) and a lodger. He was the only person listed on the household schedule.

1851 census return for Alexander Buchan

Detail from 1851 census record for Alexander Buchan (23 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1861/252/3, page 9

In 1861 Alexander Buchan, 31, Secretary to the Scottish Meteorological Society was enumerated at 4 St James Square. The census return for the parish of St Cuthbert's in Edinburgh shows that he was a boarder with the Taylor family.

1861 census return for Alexander Buchan

Detail from 1861 census record for Alexander Buchan (86 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1861/685-2/68, page 4

Marriage in 1864

Alexander Buchan, 35, Secretary of the Meteorological Society of Scotland married Sarah Ritchie on 16 July 1864. The entry in the statutory register for the district of St Andrew in the burgh of Edinburgh gives his father's occupation as weaver. The note in the left-hand margin refers to a correction in column 6 (name of second witness).

Marriage entry for Alexander Buchan

Marriage entry for Alexander Buchan (87 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1864/685-2/243

1871 to 1901 censuses

In 1871 Alexander Buchan, 41, Sec[retar]y Scottish Meteorological Society, was enumerated at 72 Northumberland Street. The census return for the parish of St Stephens in Edinburgh shows the household includes his son Alexander Hill Buchan, aged 1, a boarder who was a student of medicine and a servant.

1871 census return for Alexander Buchan

Detail from 1871 census record for Alexander Buchan (69 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1871/685-2/57, page 2

In 1881 Alex Buchan, 51, Sec[retar]y Scott[ish] Meteor[ologica]l Society MA, was enumerated at the same address. The census return for the parish of St Stephens in Edinburgh shows the household includes his wife, son and a general servant.

1881 census return for Alexander Buchan

Detail from 1881 census record for Alexander Buchan (53 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1881/685-2/72, page 32

In 1891 Alex Buchan, 61, Sec[retar]y Scott[ish] Meteor[ologica]l Society was enumerated at the same address. The census return gives his son's occupation as medical student.

1891 census return for Alexander Buchan

Detail from 1891 census record for Alexander Buchan (35 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1891/685-2/123, page 11

In 1901 Alexander Buchan 71, Secretary Scot[tish] Meteorological Society was enumerated at 42 Heriot Row. The census return for the parish of St Stephens in Edinburgh shows that he was a widower (Widr). The household includes his son, a physician, his niece Jessie, Treasurer's Cl[er]k, Scot[tish] Meteorological Soc[iet]y and his grand-niece, Margaret, a pupil teacher.

Detail from 1901 census record for Alexander Buchan (55 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1901/685-2/117, page 10

Death in 1907

Alexander Buchan, 78, Secretary Scottish Meteorological Society died at 9:15 on 13 May 1907. The entry in the statutory register for the district of St George in the City of Edinburgh gives the place of death as 2 Dean Terrace in Edinburgh and his father's occupation as woollen manufacturer. The informant was his nephew, Thomas H Buchan.

Death entry for Alexander Buchan

Death entry for Alexander Buchan (82 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1907/685-1/316

Testament of Alexander Buchan LLD FRS

Alexander Buchan's will and inventory were registered at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 19 June 1907 (National Records of Scotland, SC70/4/388, pages 308-309 and SC70/1/470, pages 160-166).

This detail from the will shows that he bequeathed his estate to his son, Alexander Hill Buchan MB CM (Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery), and £500 to his grand-niece, Margaret Evelyn Buchan.

Detail from will of Alexander Buchan

Detail from will of Alexander Buchan (137 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, SC70/4/388, page 308