John Barlow (priest)

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Bust of Barlow at the Royal Institution

John Barlow FRS (1799–1869) was an Anglican cleric and Secretary of the Royal Institution of Great Britain (1843–1860) and later Chaplain-in-Ordinary at Kensington Palace.

Life and career[edit]

Barlow born the son of the Vicar of Halberton in 1799. He was educated at Blundell's School and Trinity College, Cambridge before taking holy orders.[1] In 1822 Barlow was appointed curate of the Parish of Uckfield, Sussex and married Cecilia Anne Lam in 1824.

Between 1830 and 1842 Barlow was rector of Little Bowden, Northamptonshire. He held the position until 1843 even though he appears to have been largely absent - he moved to London in 1830 and his younger brother acted as curate.

Barlow became a member of the Royal Institution of Great Britain (RI) in 1832 and a manager in 1838. In 1834 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. From 1837 to 1838 he was Secretary of the Zoological Society.

In 1841 he succeeded Michael Faraday (1791–1867) as Secretary of the Lectures Committee at the RI. Almost uniquely as an Anglican clergyman, Barlow enjoyed a close friendship with Michael Faraday.

In 1843 he was elected Honorary Secretary of the RI, a position he held until 1860. In that role Barlow he made significant administrative changes in the running of the RI and gave lectures on the practical application of science.

Barlow published some of his research in "The Discovery of the Vital Principle or Physiology of Man" (1838). He also published "On Man's Power Over Himself to Prevent or Control Insanity" (1849), which highlighted the importance of moral management of the insane rather than the use of intimidation.

In 1851 Barlow became Minister of the Duke Street Chapel, London and from 1854 to 1859, he was Chaplain-in-Ordinary at Kensington Palace.


  • Copy of "On Man's Power Over Himself to Prevent or Control Insanity" available to view on Google Books
  • The Royal Institution holds a portrait, a bust and some photographs of John Barlow.
  • The Royal Institution holds the John Barlow Collection (Ref. GB 0116), being the papers of John Barlow including scrapbooks containing letters, newspaper cuttings, biographical notes, autographs, reports and photographs, c1750-1875 (Ref JB1-JB2)
  • Other papers of John Barlow are located at: Lambeth Palace Library (reference: MS 1379).


  1. ^ "Barlow, John (BRLW816J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.