He was born at Sudbury, Derbyshire, a younger son of Edward Harcourt, Archbishop of York. Having served for five years in the navy he went up to Christ Church College, Oxford, intending to take holy orders. He began his clerical duties at Bishopthorpe, Yorkshire, in 1811, and having developed a great interest in science while at the university, he took an active part in the foundation of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, of which he was the first president.
The laws and the plan of proceedings for the British Association for the Advancement of Science were drawn up by him; and Harcourt was elected president in 1839. In 1824 he became canon of York and rector of Wheidrake in Yorkshire, and in 1837 rector of Bolton Percy. The Yorkshire school for the blind and the Castle Howard reformatory both owe their existence to his energies. His spare time until quite late in life was occupied with scientific experiments. Inheriting the Harcourt estates in Oxfordshire from his brother in 1861, he moved to Nuneham, where he died.
His second son, William, was a successful politician.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.