Further Research on the Civil List Pensioners

By googling “Literature and the Pension List” a report by William Morris Colles dated 1889 can be found on the Civil List Pension. The report can be read online. From this report it is possible to construct the following list of scientists who were awarded the Civil List Pension in the Victorian era. It contains some of the greatest scientists and similar of any era. The report is on


and the following table gives the recipient, date and value in pounds per annum. Multiply by about 100 to find the value in today’s money. Before this era pensions were also awarded to Sir Issac Newton, Sir William Herschel and Sir James Ivory.

John Dalton 1833 150
Sir George Airy 1835 300
Michael Faraday 1836 300
Robert Brown Sept 14th 1842 200
Sir William Rowan Hamilton April 27th 1844 200
John Couch Adams July 14th 1848 200
David Livingstone June 19th 1873 300
John Prescott Joule 1878 200
Alfred Russell Wallace Feb. 5th 1881 200
Oliver Heaviside 1896 120

The report was prepared for a committee chaired by the Poet Laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson (Civil List Oct. 14th. 1845), and was sharply critical of the way in which men and women of letters, the arts and science were under valued by Parliament. On page 89 Colles makes the telling comment that failures have no right to a Royal Pension, it is the value of a person’s work that constitutes a claim to such a high honour. He recommends a sharp increase in the Pension to 1,200 pounds a year for all at age 55 (page 90). The Pension is a High Honour today, akin to Order of Merit or Companion of Honour, but has been allowed by Parliament to be devalued to almost nothing. I think that Parliament should vote in a Pension of about 50,000 pounds a year for all, thus truly recognizing a life’s work, and being in the spirit of the Act of 1837 that defines the Pension as the mark of gratitude of the Nation. My Pension at present would be 20 pounds a year in the Victorian era (2,000 pounds a year now, incremented from a starting point of 1,200 pounds a year). By offering such a pittance, Parliament currently undermines the intent of its own Act of 1837. The Pension is an appointment by the Monarch herself (a Royal Pension) as well as a High Honour akin to Order of Merit. For example at least two Pensioners were Order of Merit: Alfred Russell Wallace the naturalist and Walter de la Mare the poet.

Evans of Glyn Eithrym (Civil List Pension March 2005).

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