Architect. Born in Benvie near Dundee, where his father was the Minister. Brother of John (1748 - 1819), the mathematician and geologist, but less famous than his architect son William Henry Playfair (1790 - 1857).
James Playfair's first major success was the Town and County Hall at Forfar, commissioned after a competition organised by the local gentry. The patronage of Henry Dundas, Lord Melville (1742 - 1811), who was virtual ruler of Scotland, resulted in a further commission for Melville Castle a significant Gothic house outside Edinburgh. He also was responsible for Cairness House, near Fraserburgh.
Playfair ran into controversy when he built a new church for Kirriemuir. The capacity was rather less than expected and, in the court case which followed, Playfair's defence was that he had designed for a 'standard English' posterior rather than the (presumably wider) Scottish posterior!