Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1857) by Stephen Pearce

Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1857)

Stephen Pearce

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Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1857)

Beaufort was seventy-six when he sat for Pearce in 1850 and the general impression of this image is of a commanding and self-possessed man of science, still fully a leader in his field despite his advanced years.

Beaufort was son of a notable amateur geographer, the Reverend Daniel Augustus Beaufort. He went to sea in the East India Company in 1789, suffering shipwreck before entering the Navy in 1790 and becoming a Royal Naval lieutenant in 1796. He had a gallant and active early career, in which he took part in a number of actions and was badly wounded. However, having a sound education which his own efforts improved, he also turned early to hydrography. As a commander he surveyed the entrance to the River Plate in 1807 and, as a captain from 1810, the coast of southern Turkey (1811-1812), publishing the results in 1817. He became Hydrographer of the Navy in 1829 and retired in 1855, aged 81. In that time he exerted a huge influence on the development of naval hydrography and exploration, and made British Admiralty charts the standard of comparison for the rest of the world. His record was prodigious, both in quality and output. An average of 68 new charts a year were published during his tenure and he became a figure of both national and international repute in the field, though most generally remembered today for his Beaufort Scale of wind speeds, measured in 'forces' on a scale of one to ten.
Stephen Pearce

  • Image reference: BHC2541

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