1820 - sent from India to be raised by an aunt in St Andrews. 1832 - entered the University of St Andrews. 1835 - sent to Glasgow to train, unsuccessfully, as a merchant with his uncle James. 1837 - travelled to Calcutta, where work as a merchant's clerk had been arranged for him. 1838 - returned to England and became a laboratory assistant to the professor of chemistry, Thomas Graham at University College, London. 1841 - took his PhD and helped found the Chemical Society in Britain. 1845 - moved to London on becoming chemist to the Geological Survey. 1848 - elected as a fellow of the Royal Society. 1851 - during the Great Exhibition, he managed the prize-awarding juries and attended to the royal family. 1853 - was appointed as secretary for science, alongside Henry Cole as secretary for art, in the newly constituted Department of Science and Art. 1858 - took up the professorship of chemistry at Edinburgh University. 1870 - invented the postcard. 1873 - appointed postmaster-general. 1877 - travelled to the USA. 1883 - made Knight Commander (KCB). 1885 - served as president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. 1892 - created Baron Playfair of St Andrews. 1895 - appointed Knight Grand Cross (GCB). 1897 - proposed the creation of a new museum at South Kensington, proposing the title ‘Victorian Museum’ in honour of the queen's jubilee.