He was sent to Eton College to be educated. Following his education he conducted a DGrand Tour of Europe, as was the fashion of the day, and visited most of the European Courts. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in February 1785.
His proposers were Daniel Rutherford, John Robison, and Alexander Keith.
He served as vice-president of the Royal Society of London occasionally from 1795-1819, if Joseph Banks was unavailable. He served as a representative peer from 1784 to 1790 and as Queen"s Chamberlain 1792 to 1818.
He was also Lord Lieutenant of Fife from 1808 to 1824. In August 1791 he was made Baron Douglas of Loch Leven.
Thereafter he took a seat in the House of Lords between Lord Howard de Walden and Lord Walsingham.
He was knighted at Saint James"s Palace in 1797. He died at the family estate of Dalmahoy House on 17 July 1827. They had no children.