William Villiers Sankey came from aristocratic stock. The son of an Irish volunteer and Member of Parliament, he moved among the political elite of his day. Yet he also served as a delegate to the First Chartist Convention of 1839.
While representing Edinburgh at the convention, Sankey was profiled by The Charter newspaper. Both the profile and a portrait sketch which accompanied it now appear on Chartist Ancestors.
Sankey appears to have been a fiercely clever young man who considered the law, the church and medicine as potential careers before settling on a life as a professor of mathematics. He had also shown an aptitude for Ancient Greek and Hebrew studies.
As a convention delegate, Sankey proved to be somewhat erratic, voicing hard-line views before retreating to a moral force position as the convention went on.
However, his sympathy for the Chartist cause outlasted the first flush of enthusiasm, and he was still politically active in the early 1840s, all the while contributing his thoughts on mathematics and other subjects to specialist publications.
In Friends of the People: The Uneasy Radicals in the Age of the Chartists Owen Ashton and Paul Pickering focus on six middle class Chartist leaders, among them William Villiers Sankey. Order this book online.