Whyte, Samuel (1733–1811), schoolmaster, was born on board a ship near Liverpool, the illegitimate son of either Solomon Whyte or his brother Richard, the deputy governor of the tower of London; his mother died shortly after childbirth. His first cousin was Frances Chamberlain, who became the wife of Thomas Sheridan (qv), theatre manager, and he benefited greatly from their patronage and assistance. Sent to Ireland to be educated, he studied at Samuel Edwards's Academy at Golden Lane, Dublin. When his father died (1757) he inherited £500, and used this money to establish his own teaching academy. On 3 April 1758 he opened what was advertised as an ‘English grammar school’ at 75 Grafton St., with himself as its principal. Thanks to the influence of the Sheridans he was entrusted with the education of some of the children of the wealthiest families in Dublin, and soon established a reputation as one of the finest teachers in the city. He taught girls as well as boys, catholics and protestants, and instructed them in languages, mathematics, history, astronomy, literature, and oratory. Many of his students subsequently achieved literary distinction, including Thomas Moore (qv), John O'Keefe (qv), and Richard Brinsley Sheridan (qv). For a brief time he also taught Charles Francis Sheridan (qv), Richard's eldest brother, and a false rumour later circulated that he had dismissed both boys as ‘impenetrable dunces’. Moore was a great admirer of Whyte's advanced teaching methods and praised him in a youthful poem with the exuberant lines ‘If e'er from genius’ torch one little spark/ glowed in my soul, thy breath increased the flame’ (Fagan, 143). Soon Whyte began writing works on his system of education, and also his thoughts on the English language, and an important essay on The art of speaking was published in Dublin in 1763. Some of his poems later formed an anthology entitled The shamrock, or Hibernian cresses (1772); he also published The mourners (1787) to mark the death of the lord lieutenant, the duke of Rutland (qv). Every year his students performed a play for the annual examination; this was criticised for encouraging careers on the stage. In response, he published The theatre (1790), a didactic poem defending his original methods. One of his most famous students was the romantic patriot Robert Emmet (qv), who studied fencing under Whyte and also benefited from his instruction on oratory and eloquence. However, contrary to some claims, there is no evidence that Arthur Wellesley (qv), the future duke of Wellington, was ever his student.
Whyte married, but there are few details about his wife or private life. It seems they had three children together before separating. One son, Edward Athenry Whyte, became his partner in the 1790s and together they published Miscellanea nova (1801), a collection of poems and letters. The school suffered a decline in numbers after the act of union (1800), and Whyte gradually retired from active involvement in teaching. He died at his home on Grafton St. in September 1811 after a brief illness and was buried on 29 September at St. Ann's churchyard, Dawson St.