James Douglas, 14th Earl of Morton

James Douglas, 14th Earl of Morton, KT, PRS (1702 – 12 October 1768) was a Scottish astronomer and representative peer who was president of the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh from its foundation in 1737 until his death.[1] He also became president of the Royal Society (24 March 1764), and was a distinguished patron of science, and particularly of astronomy.

The Earl of Morton
James Douglas Davison.jpg
Portrait of Douglas with his family by Jeremiah Davison, 1740
16th President of the Royal Society
In office
Preceded byGeorge Parker
Succeeded byJames Burrow
Personal details
Born1702 (1702)
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Died12 October 1768(1768-10-12) (aged 65–66)

He was born in Edinburgh as the son of George Douglas, 13th Earl of Morton and his second wife Frances Adderley. He graduated MA from King's College, Cambridge, in 1722.[2][3] In 1746 he visited France, and was imprisoned in the Bastille, probably as a Jacobite.[4] He had a long lasting tendency to protest the actions of the British government.


He was twice married: firstly to Agatha, daughter of James Halyburton of Pitcur, Forfarshire, by whom he was the father of three sons, two of whom died young, and three daughters. The second son, Sholto Douglas, 15th Earl of Morton, succeeded him. Secondly, on 31 July 1755, at St James's Church, Piccadilly, he married Bridget, daughter of Sir John Heathcote, Bt., of Normanton,[5] who bore him a son, John (b. 4 July 1756),[6] and a daughter, Bridget (b. 3 May 1758).[7] His wife, Bridget, outlived him by thirty-seven years.


Moreton Bay in Queensland, Australia, was named after Lord Morton by Lieutenant James Cook (the spelling being an error in the published account of Cook's voyage in HMS Endeavour). Lord Morton had been influential in obtaining a grant of £4,000 to finance the voyage.[8] Cook had been instructed by the earl to regard the native populations of the places he might visit as "human creatures, the work of the same omnipotent Author, equally under his care with the most polished European ... No European nation has the right to occupy any part of their country ... without their voluntary consent“.[9]

In popular mediaEdit

Actor Brian Cox was cast as Lord Morton in the TV series, Longitude in 2000.[10]


  1. ^ Emerson, Roger L. (1985). "The Philosophical Society of Edinburgh 1768–1783". The British Journal for the History of Science. Cambridge University Press. 18 (3): 255–303. doi:10.1017/s0007087400022391. PMID 11620799.
  2. ^ Anita Guerrini, 'Douglas, James, fourteenth earl of Morton (1702–1768)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2005. Retrieved 26 August 2008. So also the original DNB
  3. ^ "Douglas, James (DGLS720J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. ^ "Douglas, James (1702-1768)" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  5. ^ The Register of Marriages solemnized in the Parish Church of St James within the Liberty of Westminster & County of Middlesex. 1754–1765. 31 July 1755.
  6. ^ The Register of Births & Baptisms in the Parish of St James within the Liberty of Westminster Vol. IV. 1741–1760. 22 July 1756.
  7. ^ The Register of Births & Baptisms in the Parish of St James within the Liberty of Westminster Vol. IV. 1741–1760. 29 May 1758.
  8. ^ "Moreton Bay (entry 22810)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  9. ^ King, Michael: The Penguin History of New Zealand, location 1237/6839 Kindle edition, Penguin Books 2003.
  10. ^ "Longitude © (1999)". Retrieved 22 June 2021.
Masonic offices
Preceded by Grand Master of the
Grand Lodge of Scotland

Succeeded by
Grand Master of the
Premier Grand Lodge of England

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Lord Clerk Register
Succeeded by
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by  
Earl of Morton

Succeeded by
Professional and academic associations
Preceded by 16th President of the Royal Society
Succeeded by