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Falconer, Alexander, Lord Falconer of Halkertoun (1593/4–1671), judge, was the eldest son of Sir Alexander Falconer of Halkertoun (or Halkerton), Kincardineshire (d. 1645/6), and Agnes (d. 1634), daughter of Sir David Carnegie of Colluthie and Kinnaird and his second wife, Euphame Wemyss, and sister of David Carnegie, first earl of Southesk (1574/5–1658). He married, about April 1619, Anne, daughter of John, Lord Lindsay of the Byres (d. 1609), and Anne, daughter of Lawrence Oliphant, master of Oliphant; they had two sons and a daughter. He and his wife separated in 1627 by agreement approved by the privy council.

Falconer was appointed a lord of session on 9 July 1639, at the beginning of a turbulent period in the court's history, taking the judicial title of Lord Halkertoun. According to Fountainhall he gained office by paying his predecessor, Lord Woodhall, 7000 merks to stand down. He was reappointed ad vitam aut culpam on 13 November 1641, but was removed from the session in the purge of 1649 for ‘malignancy’ in supporting the engagement. He was reappointed at the Restoration and remained in office until his death. Falconer was commissioner to the convention of estates in 1643–4, and commissioner to parliament in 1644–6, representing Kincardineshire. He was also a commissioner for the loan and tax in 1643; commissioner of treasury in 1645; on the committee of estates in 1645, 1646, and 1648; and on the committee of war for Kincardineshire in 1643, 1644, 1646, and 1648. He was a commissioner of supply for Kincardineshire in 1656 and 1659. He was created Lord Falconer of Halkertoun on 20 December 1646 and a privy councillor in 1661. Falconer died in Edinburgh on 1 October 1671.

A brother, Sir David Falconer of Glenfarquhar, was also a member of the committee of war, and assented for Kincardineshire to the English parliament's tender of union in 1652, being one of twenty-one deputies elected to treat in London with the parliament. Another brother, Sir John (d. 1670), was master of the (Scottish) mint to Charles I and Charles II.

W. D. H. Sellar


GEC, Peerage · Scots peerage [Kintore and corrigenda] · M. D. Young, ed., The parliaments of Scotland: burgh and shire commissioners, 2 vols. (1992–3) · Journals of Sir John Lauder, ed. D. Crawford, Scottish History Society, 36 (1900) · Reg. PCS, 2nd ser., vol. 1 · D. Stevenson, ‘The covenanters and the court of session’, Juridical Review, new ser., 17 (1972), 227–47 · G. Brunton and D. Haig, An historical account of the senators of the college of justice, from its institution in MDXXXII (1832) · APS, 1643–60


BL, letters to Lord Lauderdale and Charles II, Add. MSS 23114–23129

© Oxford University Press 2004–6
All rights reserved: see legal notice


W. D. H. Sellar, ‘Falconer, Alexander, Lord Falconer of Halkertoun 1593/4–1671)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 2 Oct 2006]

Alexander Falconer (1593/4–1671): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9106

Falconer, Sir David (1638/9–1685), lawyer and judge, was the second son of Sir David Falconer of Glenfarquhar (d. before 1682), one of the commissaries of Edinburgh, and Margaret, daughter of Sir Robert Hepburn of Bearford. His elder brother was Sir Alexander Falconer of Glenfarquhar (d. 1717), who was created a baronet in 1670. Falconer received an MA from Edinburgh University on 26 July 1657, studied law ‘under the eye of his father’ (Brunton and Haig, 405), and was admitted an advocate on 29 June 1661. He became a commissary of Edinburgh in 1661 and was knighted. Falconer married, probably around this date, Elizabeth (1635–1676), daughter of Robert Nairn of Muckersy, Kincardine, and sister of Robert Nairn, advocate, created Lord Nairn in 1681. They had one son, born on 6 August 1663, who died young. His wife was buried on 20 January 1676.

Falconer was nominated a lord of session on 24 May 1676, and took his seat on 12 June. On 16 February 1678 he married Mary (bap. 1654), daughter of George Norvell, advocate, of Boghall, Linlithgowshire. They had three sons and four daughters, including Catherine, the mother of the philosopher David Hume. All Falconer's children survived him. On 2 March 1678 he became a lord of justiciary, and on 24 September 1679 he was admitted a burgess of Edinburgh. On 5 June 1682 he became lord president of session. In this capacity ‘he introduced regulations tending to enlarge the attendance of judges’ (Brunton and Haig, 405), which did not earn him the approbation of his fellow judges. In 1684 he was made a privy councillor of Scotland, and he was reappointed in 1685 following the accession of James VII and II. In the parliament of 1685 he sat for Forfarshire, was chosen a lord of the articles, and was nominated to the commissions on trade, the plantation of kirks and the regulation of inferior jurisdictions.

After four days' illness Falconer died in Edinburgh on 15 December 1685, aged forty-six, and was buried on the 21st in Greyfriars churchyard in Edinburgh, where a monument was erected to his memory. His widow remarried John Hume of Ninewells. Falconer had been assiduous in collecting legal materials until the last day he sat in court. These were published by John Spottiswood in 1705 as Decisions of the Court of Session November 1681 to December 1685.

Stuart Handley


M. D. Young, ed., The parliaments of Scotland: burgh and shire commissioners, 1 (1992), 235 · Scots peerage, 5.247–8; 6.393 · G. Brunton and D. Haig, An historical account of the senators of the college of justice, from its institution in MDXXXII (1832), 405–6 · H. Paton, ed., Register of interments in the Greyfriars burying-ground, Edinburgh, 1658–1700, Scottish RS, 26 (1902), 212 · H. Paton, ed., The register of marriages for the parish of Edinburgh, 1595–1700, Scottish RS, old ser., 27 (1905), 224 · W. Anderson, The Scottish nation, 2 (1868), 188 · C. B. B. Watson, ed., Roll of Edinburgh burgesses and guild-brethren, 1406–1700, Scottish RS, 59 (1929), 177 · IGI


U. Aberdeen, documents relating to the affairs of Sir David Newton

Falconer, Forbes (1805–1853), orientalist, was born at Aberdeen on 10 September 1805, the second and only surviving son of Gilbert Falconer, schoolmaster of Braeside, Fife, and his wife, Jane, née Donald. He was educated at Aberdeen grammar school and at Marischal College, where he obtained prizes in classical studies. His first publications, which appeared anonymously in local journals, were also classical, consisting of metrical translations from the Greek anthology. He began his oriental studies before the age of twenty, by attending the Hebrew classes of Professor Bentley in Aberdeen, and by private study of Arabic and Persian. He then went to Paris where for five years he attended the courses of De Sacy, De Chézy, and, for Hindustani, of Garcin de Tassy.

After short visits to several German universities, Falconer returned to Britain and settled in London as a teacher of oriental languages. For a short time he was professor of oriental languages in University College, London. He was perhaps best known for his works on Sa‘di's Bustan, from which he published in 1839 a volume of selections, very neatly lithographed from his own transcript. He also published a translation of part of the same poem, as well as selections from several of the Sufi poets including a poem of Hafiz, signed F. F., and a critical study of the Sindibad Namah in the Asiatic Journal. Falconer also edited Persian texts of Jami for the Society for the Publication of Oriental Texts. The critical ability demonstrated in these texts is attested by Francis Johnson in the preface to his edition of Richardson's Persian Dictionary.

Falconer was a member of the Asiatic societies of London and Paris, and an honorary member of the American Oriental Society. He died of bronchitis on 7 November 1853 at 6 Edwardes Square, London.

Cecil Bendall, rev. Parvin Loloi


Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 15 (1855), v–viii · J. T. Zenker, Bibliotheca orientalis, [rev. edn] (Leipzig, 1846–61) · Boase, Mod. Eng. biog. · C. E. Buckland, Dictionary of Indian biography (1906) · d. cert.

© Oxford University Press 2004–6
All rights reserved: see legal notice


Cecil Bendall, ‘Falconer, Forbes (1805–1853)’, rev. Parvin Loloi, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 2 Oct 2006]

Forbes Falconer (1805–1853): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9109

Falconer, Hugh (1808–1865), palaeontologist and naturalist, was born at Forres, Moray, on 29 February 1808, one of five sons and two daughters of David Falconer and his wife, Isabel Mcrae. He was educated at the local grammar school and the University of Aberdeen, where he obtained his MA degree. He later attended Edinburgh University, learning botany from Professor Robert Graham and geology from Professor Robert Jameson, and obtained his MD degree there in 1829, his thesis being entitled ‘De chorea’. He went to London soon after and there met Nathaniel Wallich and worked with him on his Indian herbarium specimens. He also worked with William Lonsdale, curator at the Geological Society of London museum and worked at the Geological Society on the Ava (Burma) collection of fossil mammals made by John Crawfurd from the banks of the Irrawaddi. Both these activities were important in directing his later career.

Falconer went to India as surgeon with the East India Company, Bengal establishment, arriving at Calcutta in September 1830, and obtained a position in the museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. There he saw fossil material from the Ava collection in the museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal and this topic was one of his first publications (1831 in Gleanings in Science, 3). In the course of duties he met J. Forbes Royal of the Saharanpur/Serempore Botanic Gardens and was made his deputy, and in 1832, superintendent of the gardens. His resourcefulness there in making a mercury barometer for measuring altitude from materials obtainable locally was recorded by a contemporary writer. There too, in 1832, he was shown animal fossils from the Sewalik hills in the Himalayan foothills by P. T. Cautley, which they identified as fossil mammals of Tertiary age. Over the next twenty years and more Cautley and Falconer, with few resources, investigated the Sewalik hills fossil fauna with great skill and vigour. They later discovered and investigated further Tertiary fossiliferous material deposits at the Kalomal Pass. Yet more fossil bones of this formation were found by Lieutenant William Erskine Baker and Lieutenant Henry Durand during work at Markunda, west of Jumma, which came into Falconer's possession.

Falconer demonstrated considerable stratigraphic ability in deducing that the Sewalik fossil material wasnot of New Red Sandstone age (Triassic) as was supposed, but late Tertiary (it is now known to be predominantly Plio-Pleistocene) and that the deposit was of a similar sedimentary facies to the molasse of Switzerland. The mammalian fauna consisted of mastodons, elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, pig, and giraffe. They also found one of the first fossil monkey skulls, a fact noted by Charles Darwin during his earliest evolutionary musings. There were fossil fishes, and among the reptilian remains of crocodiles and tortoises was a giant tortoise which caught the public imagination. Falconer's work was detailed and he is known to have captured living animals to compare their anatomy with his fossil material. In recognition of their work on vertebrate palaeontology Falconer and Cautley jointly received the Wollaston medal of the Geological Society of London in 1837.

Falconer was sent to the north-west of India in 1837 and made initial investigations of the natural history and geology of the Salt range (in present-day Pakistan), Kashmir, and south-eastern Afghanistan. Here his health began to suffer and he returned to England in 1842 bringing with him 5 tons of fossil bones in their rock matrix. He remained in England until 1846 or 1847. In London he worked on the Indian fossils at the British Museum and also worked at the museum of the East India Company in Leadenhall Street. During this home leave work was begun on the illustrations (lithographs) for what was to become Falconer's best-known publication, his uncompleted Fauna antiqua Sivalensis (1846–9). Such of the letterpress and plate description as were ever published appeared in 1868 under Sir Roderick Murchison's editorship. Falconer was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1845. In India in the same year he was appointed professor of botany at Calcutta medical college and superintendent of the Royal Botanic Garden, Calcutta (1848) as successor to Wallich. It was from here that Falconer undertook botanical work associated with the introduction of tea and Cinchona species, which produce quinine, into cultivation in India. He selected and arranged the Bengal exhibits for the Great Exhibition of 1851. After this he undertook the task of preparing a catalogue of the fossils in the museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal which appeared in 1859. This was a formidable task, as few records had been kept before his time. In India he continued his palaeontological work in the Sewalik hills as best he could with the resources at his disposal. However, his health was impaired and he returned to London for good in 1855, visiting Palestine, Syria, and the Crimea (during the siege of Sevastopol) on the way. In Europe a second phase of his career began: he worked on many aspects of vertebrate palaeontology and especially Pleistocene cave fossil faunas—elephants and mastodons being a particular interest. He developed a reputation for thorough work and became an active member of the scientific community in London. In a memoir in 1857 he concluded that there had been three species of Pleistocene fossil elephant in southern Britain, disagreeing with Richard Owen in the process, who had considered there to have been only one. He also examined flint artefacts from the Somme valley of northern France in 1858 and the fossil fauna of caves in the Gower peninsula. Falconer in 1858 excavated chipped flints in Brixham cave, and was foremost in arguing that these were tools and therefore proof of mankind's antiquity (then disputed). His discoveries were exploited by Charles Lyell in his Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man (1863) which led to acrimonious exchanges. At thistime Falconer was also one of the committee who commented on the future housing of the botanical collections in the British Museum following the death of the botanist Robert Brown.

For health reasons Falconer spent the winters of 1858–61 in the western Mediterranean, and investigated cave faunas in Malta, Sicily, and Gibraltar. His botanical and palaeobotanical interests continued: in 1860–62 he was able to conclude that the Bovey Tracy (Devon) lignite was of Miocene age and corresponded with the better-known German deposits of the same age. In the early 1860s he visited major British, French, German, and Italian museums and examined their fossil collections. At the time of his death he was vice-president of the Royal Society and foreign secretary of the Geological Society of London. He died at his home, 21 Park Crescent, Marylebone, London, on 31 January 1865 and was buried at Kensal Green cemetery, London, on 4 February.

Regrettably Falconer's large and important Sewalik hills fossil fauna collection was never fully published, partly because of his ill health in later years and partly because some of his lithographic drawings made for the project had been removed from the stones between 1845 and 1855 while he was in India. The failure to complete this work was one of the tragedies of nineteenth-century Anglo-Indian science and Falconer cannot be held entirely responsible. In 1863 Falconer published on an American fossil elephant Elephas columbi and it is known that he disagreed with Sir Richard Owen on some aspects of the Pleistocene fossil elephant taxonomy from the Gulf of Mexico and felt that Owen had ignored his prior name in favour of his own name, Elephas texianus (Murchison, Palaeontological Memoir, 215–16); the belief persists that Owen, the Natural History Museum's first director, may have suppressed the publication of some of this work until after Falconer's death. Certainly it fell to Murchison in 1867–8 to publish much of what survived of Falconer's palaeontological notes and material as Palaeontological Memoirs and Notes of the Late Hugh Falconer.

Falconer's botanical collecting was also considerable. His plant material consisted of eighty cases of dried plants and these were passed initially to the museum of the East India Company, London, and after the company's suppression (1858) to the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. His botanical notes and coloured drawings were also passed to Kew at this time. He was commemorated in the now obsolete plant genus Falconeria J. D. Hooker (Scrophulariaceae), and in Rhododendron falconeri (Ericaceae). The Falconer Museum in Forres, Moray, commemorates Hugh and his brother Alexander Falconer (1797–1856).

D. T. Moore


J. Chaloner, ‘Falconer, Hugh (1808–1865)’, DSB, vol. 4 · DNB · R. I. Murchison, PRS, 15 (1866–7), xiv-xxiii · R. I. Murchison, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, 35 (1865), cxv–cxviii · R. I. Murchison, ed., Palaeontological memoirs and notes of the late Hugh Falconer, 2 vols. (1868) · F. A. Stafleu and R. S. Cowan, Taxonomic literature: a selective guide, 2nd edn, 1, Regnum Vegetabile, 94 (1976) · W. T. Stearn, The Natural History Museum at South Kensington: a history of the British Museum (Natural History), 1753–1980 (1981) · P. J. Boylan, ‘The controversy of the Moulin-Quignon jaw: the role of Hugh Falconer’, in L. J. Jordanova and R. S. Porter, Images of the earth (1979), 171–99 · L. G. Wilson, ‘Brixham cave and Sir Charles Lyell's The Antiquity of Man: the roots of Hugh Falconer's attack on Lyell’, Archives of Natural History, 23 (1996), 79–97 · d. cert. · card catalogue, RS · Scottish old parish register


Falconer Museum, Forres, corresp. and MSS · NHM, MSS · NHM, specimens · RBG Kew, drawings and MSS · RCS Eng., MSS |  Elgin Museum, Elgin, letters to George Gordon · U. Edin. L., letters to Sir Charles Lyell

Likenesses : E. Edwards, photograph, 1865, NPG; repro. in Portraits of men of eminence, 3 (1865) · J. Bell, bust, 1867, Madras, India · T. Butler, bust, RS · bust, Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta · photograph, repro. in Murchison, Palaeontological memoirs · photograph, NHM, Palaeontology Library

Wealth at death  

under £16,000: resworn probate, May 1865, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Falconer, Ion Grant Neville Keith- (1856–1887), Arabic scholar, third son of Francis Alexander Keith-Falconer, eighth earl of Kintore (1828–1880), and Louisa Madaleine Hawkins (d, 1916), was born at Edinburgh (probably at 24 Abercromby Place) on 5 July 1856. His family were the representatives of the Keiths, earls Marischal of Scotland. Educated first at home, and then at Cheam, Surrey, under the Revd R. S. Tabor, at the age of thirteen he won a scholarship to Harrow School. After four years he left to be coached in mathematics before entering Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1874. After his first year he gave up mathematics to read theology, and graduated with first-class honours in January 1878. He was awarded the Hebrew prize. From his schooldays he had taken an interest in evangelistic efforts. At Barnwell, a poor working-class suburb of Cambridge, he involved himself in charitable work. He spent much time and money in similar work in London, especially in connection with the Tower Hamlets Mission at the Great Assembly Hall in the Mile End Road.

Keith-Falconer was specially attracted by the biblical, and pre-eminently the Hebrew, part of his studies. After taking his degree he turned his attention to oriental languages, Hebrew and Syriac, and ultimately Arabic. At these he worked hard, first at Cambridge, where he won the Tyrwhitt University Hebrew scholarship, and obtained a first class in the newly founded Semitic languages tripos in February 1880, and afterwards at Leipzig University, where he spent the winter of 1880–81. In order to improve his knowledge of modern spoken Arabic, he decided to stay the winter months of 1881–2 at Asyut in Upper Egypt, but two attacks of fever forced him to return in late January 1882.

Although never of very robust health, Keith-Falconer was from his schooldays an enthusiastic and outstanding cyclist. His height (6 ft 3 in.) enabled him to ride ‘high-wheelers’ with a wheel span of 62 inches. He was elected vice-president of the Cambridge University Bicycle Club before he came into residence (June 1874), and was president of the London Bicycle Club from May 1877 until he left England. His cycling successes, from 1874 to 1882, were numerous. At the 2 mile race of 11 May 1878 at Cambridge he defeated the well-known professional champion John Keen by 5 yards, and in the 50 mile bicycle union amateur championship race at the Crystal Palace, on 9 July 1882, accomplished in 2 hrs, 43 min., 55.2 sec., he beat all previous records. In June 1882 he made a then unprecedented bicycle ride, from Land's End to John o' Groat's House, a journey of 994 miles, in 13 days less 45 minutes.

After his return from Egypt Keith-Falconer stayed in Cambridge more often than in the previous two years and devoted much of his time to studying Arabic with the noted orientalist, William Wright. He was already Hebrew lecturer at Clare College, Cambridge, and had been since 1881 engaged upon a translation from the Syriac version, discovered by Professor Wright in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, of the Kalilah and Dimnah, otherwise known as the Fables of Bidpai. This was published early in 1885, with a long introduction on the literary history of the document, and the bibliography of the versions. Its learning and critical acumen were recognized by Professor Nöldeke and other leading oriental scholars. Keith-Falconer also wrote a very full article on shorthand for the ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica; he had taught himself the Pitman system at school.

On 4 March 1884 Keith-Falconer married Gwendolen (d. 1937), the daughter of Robert Bevan, managing director of Barclays Bank. They settled in Cambridge, and lived at 5 Salisbury Villas, Station Road. Within a few months, however, he became engrossed with the idea of mission work in a field where his knowledge of Arabic might be directly utilized. After reading a paper by Major-General Haig in The Christian for February 1885 he began to consider Aden as a possible centre for this. With his wife he made a preliminary visit of four months at the end of 1885 to test the climate, and acquired some medical knowledge with a view to founding a hospital, which formed part of his scheme. He decided to station himself not in the town of Aden itself where the Church Missionary Society had recently become active, but at Shaykh ‘Uthman, 9½ miles inland but just inside British territory, where schools and a hospital could be built. He made some lengthy excursions inland, and began to study Hindustani and also Somali, as several thousand Somali immigrants had settled in and around Aden.

In April 1886 Keith-Falconer and his wife returned to England, and on 26 May he was formally recognized as a missionary by the general assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, in which his father had been an elder, and in which he himself had been brought up. Early in the following summer he accepted the post of lord almoner's professor of Arabic at Cambridge, which required the delivery of one lecture annually and had a nominal stipend of £50 p.a. He gave a course of three lectures in November entitled ‘Pilgrimage to Mecca’. These lectures were not published. On the day after the last lecture he left England, again accompanied by his wife, and arrived at Aden on 8 December 1886. He travelled at his own expense, and took with him, also at his own cost, Dr Stewart Cowen of the Western Infirmary, Glasgow. He had obtained a grant of land at Shaykh ‘Uthman, on which he at once began to build a permanent home for the mission, which was to comprise an orphanage, a dispensary, a hospital, and a school. Early in February 1887, however, Keith-Falconer had the first of several attacks of Aden fever. He died on 11 May and was buried that day in the Aden cemetery. His library of over 400 Arabic books was given to the Edinburgh New College, an educational institution founded and supported by the Free Church of Scotland.

Robert Sinker, rev. John Gurney

Sources:  R. Sinker, Memorials of the Hon. Ion Keith-Falconer (1888) · R. Sinker, ‘In memoriam: Ion Grant Neville Keith-Falconer’, Cambridge Review (25 May 1887) · J. McGurn, On your bicycle: an illustrated history of cycling (1987) · ‘Hon. Ion Grant Neville Keith-Falconer’, Sporting Mirror, 4/20 (1888), 49–52 · personal knowledge (1891) · private information (1891) [relatives and friends]

Likenesses: photograph, 1882, repro. in McGurn, On your bicycle, 64 · photograph, 1885–1886, repro. in Sinker, Memorials, repr. 1903, frontispiece · etching?, repro. in ‘Hon. Ion Grant Neville Keith-Falconer’ · watercolour, priv. coll. · wood-engraving, NPG; repro. in ILN (30 Jan 1875)

Wealth at death  

£1648 15s.: administration, 30 July 1887, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Robert Sinker, ‘Falconer, Ion Grant Neville Keith- (1856–1887)’, rev. John Gurney, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 2 Oct 2006

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