James Currie, owner and senior partner of the international shipping company the Currie Line and keen amateur botanist, mineralogist and archaeologist, was the son of the shipowner and shipbuilder James Currie. He was educated at the Edinburgh Academy (1876-1879) and continued his studies at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Cambridge, graduating at the latter institution as Master of Arts (MA) in mathematics in 1885. He concentrated on his scientific pursuits until his father died in 1900, when he became the owner and director of both James Currie & Co. (the shipbuilding branch) and the Currie Line (the shipping company).
Currie travelled in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and North America, and the letters he sent home from these countries were published for private circulation in Edinburgh in 1890. In 1894 he contributed two articles relating to South Africa to the Transactions of the Geological Society of Edinburgh, "Notes on a visit to the copper mines of Little Namaqualand" (Vol. 7, pp. 30-34), and "On apophyllite from Cape Colony" (Vol. 7, pp. 252-253). [Apophylite is a hydrated silicate of potassium and calcium, remarkable for the size and perfection of its crystals].
Currie was a life member of the Mineralogical Society from 1899 and among others contributed a paper on gyrolite and tobermorite to the Mineralogical Magazine in 1905. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1897 and served as its treasurer from 1906 to 1926. He joined the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1892 and was still a member by 1905. The University of Edinburgh awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D) degree in 1919. He was president of the Edinburgh Geological Society from 1904 to 1906 and wrote some papers on Scottish zeolites. His mineral collection, rich in zeolites, was presented by his widow to the University of Edinburgh.
Currie was married to Gertrude Peterkin, with whom he had a son and three daughters.