Knox, George (1765–1827), barrister and politician, was born 14 January 1765 in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, fifth son of Thomas Knox (qv), later Baron Welles and 1st Viscount Northland, and his wife Anne, second daughter of Baron Knapton. George and his brothers were to attain high office in several spheres: Thomas Knox (qv) was a long-serving MP until succeeding as 2nd Viscount Northland; Maj.-gen. John Knox (qv) was an MP and a distinguished soldier; William Knox (1762–1831) and Edmund Knox (1773–1849) became bishops of Derry and Limerick respectively.
Trained as a barrister at Lincoln's Inn, London (1782), George Knox was later called to the Irish bar (1788). He served in the Irish parliament as member for the borough of Dungannon (1790–97) and the University of Dublin (1797–1800) and in the Westminster parliament after the act of union as University member (1801–7). With his brothers Thomas and John, he formed part of Lord Abercorn's (qv) interest, and from 1790 was Abercorn's chief spokesman in parliament. The highlights of his parliamentary career were his bill of 1793 to allow catholics to sit in parliament (it was defeated); his support for catholic emancipation again in 1795; his opposition to the act of union, over which in 1799 he resigned his government position as commissioner of the revenue in Ireland, which he had held from 1793. Knox was a close friend of Theobald Wolfe Tone (qv), with whom he had shared chambers while studying in London, and was godfather to his second son, William (qv). Tone described him as a man of ‘inappreciable merit, loved to a degree of enthusiasm by all who had the happiness to know him’ (quoted in HIP). Knox did not share Tone's republicanism but sympathised with him when he was forced into exile in 1795, commenting that ‘if your Paineism has sunk you, my Montesquieuism may not long keep me afloat’ (quoted in Elliott, 254). He became reconciled to the union and was appointed a lord of the treasury (1805) and a privy counsellor. He had been known as a good debater in the Irish parliament, but spoke little at Westminster. On leaving parliament he served for two years as a commissioner of customs, for which he received an annual pension of £400, which was doubled in 1809.
Knox was involved as vice-president with the Friends of Ireland, an organisation that encouraged education through the Irish language. He received two honorary degrees in law: LLD from Dublin (1795) and DCL from Oxford (1811). Active in scientific circles in Dublin and London, he was keenly interested in analytical methods in mineralogy and carried out many experiments in the laboratories of the Dublin Society. He was an MRIA (1798), FRS (1802), president of the Kirwanian Society sometime after 1812, and vice-president of the RDS (1820–1827). He rarely published his research other than occasional papers on topics as diverse as the calp limestone of the Dublin region (1802), pitchstone from Newry, Co. Down (1822), and bitumen (1823). He assembled a fine collection of minerals, which included exceptional beryl crystals from the Mourne mountains, and arranged it with the assistance of the mineralogist Sir Charles Lewis Giesecke. Knox died in a carriage accident at Velletri, Italy, on 13 June 1827.
He married first (27 June 1805) Anne (d. 1 May 1811), daughter of Sir Robert Staples, bart., and secondly (12 November 1812) Harriet (1791–1816), daughter of Thomas and Mary Fortescue of Dromiskyne, Co. Louth. He had three sons by his first wife, and one son and one daughter by his second. The only known pictorial representation of Knox is in a painting of the Irish house of commons by Henry Barraud and John Hayter. His mineral collection and associated archive is at TCD.