[Sir] Francis Beaufort (1774-1857)

Criticism

Life
[family orig. de Beaufort, reaching England in 1700s;] son of Daniel Augustus Beaufort (1739-1821) and grandson of a clergyman who moved to Ireland with his friend the viceroy, later returning to England in 1779; b. Navan, Co. Meath; family returned to Ireland, 1784; ed. by his father and grandfather; entered Military and Marine Academy in Dublin, 1785; joined East India Company ship Vansittart, Feb. 1789, sailing under Capt. Lestock Wilson, whose daughter he married and with whom 6 children; afterwards shipwrecked; joined HMS Aquilon;
 
seriously wounded in capturing a Spanish ship at sea, carrying shot in his lung to his death; appt. navy lieutenant 1796; commander, 1800; assisted Richard Lovell Edgeworth, his brother-in-law, in building telegraph line from Dublin to Galway, 1803; conducted extremely detailed surveys incl. Rio de la Plata, 1807; also the coast of Turkey, 1811-12, being was wounded in the process; appt. post-captain, 1810; published the result of his Turkish survey as Karmania: A Brief Description of the South Coast of Asia Minor and of the Remains of Antiquity (1817; 2nd edn. 1818); appt. chief hydrographer to Navy, 1829-55;
 
conceived the Beaufort Scale of wind measurement which was adopted by Admiralty, 1838, and afterwards internationally, 1874; introduced use of alphabet to summarise weather events (Beaufort Weather Letters); served on royal commissions on pilotage, 1845, and waterways of Britain, 1848; prepared atlas used by Society for Diffusion of Useful Knowledge; FRS and FRAS; rear-admiral on retired list, 1846; KCB 1848; d. 17 Dec.; he was posthumously discovered to have conducted an incestuous relation with a sister after the death of his wife; his dg. was Harriet Beafort, who published books for children. ODNB DIH

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Criticism
Scott Huler, Defining the Wind: The Beaufort Scale, and How a 19th-Century Admiral Turned Science into Poetry [1996] (NY: Three Rivers Press 2004), 290pp., incls. chaps.: Introduction [6 Sept. 1996] - Hurricane Fran and before; Beaufort of the Admiralty; In search of the wind; The Beaufort scale, and who wrote it, in a general way; Reverse-engineering the wind; ‘Nature rightly questioned, never lies’: the Beaufort scale, nineteenth-century science, and the last eighteenth-century man; Getting the word out: on the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, the dictionary, and how Sir Francis Beaufort slept with his sister; Taking the measure of the wind: the fabulous beaufortometer; A picture of the wind: poetry, the shipping forecast, and the search for the North Shields observer; Observation, a panegyric: on the Beaufort moment.; Appendix A. Beaufort scale family album; Appendix B. Explanation of the plate describing the rigging, etc., of a first-rate man of war.

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Commentary
Stephen Flanagan, ‘Legends of Irish Life: No. 19: Francis Beaufort’, Magill (May 2003), pp.14-15: ‘Francis Beaufort was destined to go to sea from the age of four. But as he crouched low in a small boat one night in 1800, two loaded pistols in his lap, heading from his ship towards a hostile Spanish craft, he must have wondered if the ocean gods had also prescribed him an early grave. / The idea was to slip quietly up to the side of the Spanish ship under the cover of darkness and board it. But it was not to be - Beaufort’s craft was spotted, and a flare went up illuminating the scene. / Another ship opened fire with muskets. Beaufort and his companions reached the side of the Spanish vessel and began to scramble up. One seaman was shot through the throat. Beaufort came over the side and was immediately cut twice by a cutlass, once on the head and once on the shin. He struggled on, only to be shot from point blank range with a blunderbuss. By chance he had partially turned away to check the rest of his crew, and the blast ripped into his chest and left arm. / Beaufort somehow fought on. Then, just as it looked as though they had won, he was shot for a second time, in the side. His last orders were to cut the mooring cables before he lost consciousness [...]’ Further: ‘On 13 January 1806, he wrote in his journal: “Hereafter I shall estimate the force of the wind according to the following scale, as nothing can convey a more uncertain idea of wind and weather than the old expressions of moderate, cloudy, &c., &c.’ He then explained his wind scale, with graduated descriptions such as “gentle breeze”, “moderate breeze”, “fresh breeze” and so on. The scale, however, wasn’t original. It was based on a version written in 1789 by English hydrographer Alexander Dalrymple, although Beaufort had expanded the concept significantly, paving the way for the contemporary scale that bears his name.’

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Notes
Incest?: Beaufort’s sexual rapport with a sister, who kept house after the death of his wife, came to light after his at his own death in diaries recording remorse at having repeatedly ‘resorted’ to her. (Q. source; and check kin - but see Scott Huler supra.)

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F. E. Dixon writes to The Irish Times(14 Jan. 1971): ‘[...] You valiant effort to enlighten Mrs. Tobias and her cat about the use of the letters p and i on the weather map is only half correct: i = intermittent,, but p = passing. Thus pr = showers of rainover and which are normally separated by bright intervals. This is meteorologically different from ir = rain falling intermittently but from continuous sheets of cloud, and with no clearance of the sky when the rain eases off. / This use of the alphabet to summarise the weather elements was introduced by Irish-born Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, FRS (1774-1857). This system of Beaufort Weather Letters is very widely understood and it is regrettable that you should use a different system in your reports of midday weather from foreign resorts and capitals. Yours, etc., F. E. Dixon, Central Analysis and Forecast Officer, 22 Upper O'Connell street, Dublin 1. [Note that the Quidnunc article on the same page is devoted to Mr Fred Dixon, of whoma port. in profile appears, and who is credited with checking the weather record in relation to an unusually warm January.]

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Kith & Kin?: Sir Francis Beaufort Palmer was a prolific writer on Company Law during the period 1893-1920 [see COPAC].

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