Foley, Samuel (1655–95), Church of Ireland bishop, was born 25 November 1655 in Boate St., Clonmel, Tipperary, eldest among at least three sons of Samuel Foley, who had come to Ireland from England as a captain in the forces of Thomas Wentworth (qv), earl of Strafford. Despite being accused of misdeeds committed while in Strafford's service, ranging from theft and destruction of property to murder, Samuel senior was mayor of Clonmel in 1668, and had married Elizabeth Richards from Solsborough, Co. Wexford, daughter of Solomon Richards. Her brother, another Solomon Richards (d. 1691), governor of Wexford, raised a regiment which was sent to reinforce the city of Derry in 1689, but on the advice of Robert Lundy (qv) he retreated to England and was later ‘broke for cowardice’ (DNB, on Lundy). The Foleys also had at least one daughter. Relatives in England included Paul Foley, speaker of the English house of commons in 1695.
The younger Samuel was educated at Kilkenny College, and entered TCD on 8 June 1672. He graduated BA in 1675, became a fellow two years later, and graduated MA in 1678; his college awarded him the degree of DD in 1691. He was ordained in the Church of Ireland in March 1679, and was vicar of Finglas, Dublin (1681–94), chancellor of St Patrick's (1689–94), and dean of Achonry (1691–4). He was an ambitious and able churchman, firm in support of protestantism but prepared to sign the address to King James II (qv) in 1685. Later in the reign he seems to have taken refuge in England for he was among those attainted by the 1689 Irish parliament. On 2 September 1694 he was consecrated bishop of Down and Connor, but died of fever at Lisburn on 22 May 1695, and was buried in Lisburn cathedral.
He was described as a handsome man, of blameless life and pleasant disposition, but is best remembered as a founding member of the Dublin Philosophical Society, established by William Molyneux (qv) in 1683; he presented six papers to the society, one of which, a short description of the Giant's Causeway, Co. Antrim, was published in the Philosophical Transactions (1694). This was based on his own observations and measurements, and was regarded as a useful contribution to the contemporary interest in the site. Foley also wrote a careful account of the structure of the broad bean seed, calculations on the mode of sailing a ship in side winds, and a summary of the existing knowledge of fossils. He also attempted to use mathematics as an analogy or as a technique for evaluating moral and philosophical matters, in hopes that the exact sciences could apply to all aspects of life; his attempt (though inevitably unsuccessful) may be seen as indicative of the enthusiasm for the New Learning that characterised the Dublin scientists. He wrote an address on religious education for the inhabitants of his see, and in 1683 published two sermons; a portion of his diary for 1694–5 survives in Derry diocesan library. His will (made 4 April 1695) bequeathed £40, the interest of which was to buy bread for the poor of St Werburgh's, Dublin.
He married Honora, daughter of Roger Moore (d. 1705), MP for Mullingar. They had two sons, one a clergyman in England, and one a soldier; his wife survived him and remarried.