Robert FitzRoy

Charles Darwin described Robert FitzRoy as a ‘very extraordinary person’, being ‘everything that is delightful’ and ‘very scientific’. Vice-Admiral FitzRoy was an English officer of the Royal Navy and a scientist. He is most celebrated as the captain of the HMS Beagle during Darwin’s famous voyage, a major cartographic expedition from 1831 to 1836. FitzRoy entered the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth at the age of 12, and joined the Royal Navy the following year. He became a lieutenant in 1824, passing the examination with full marks, the first to ever achieve such a result. He was a pioneering meteorologist who made daily weather predictions, which he referred to as his own term ‘forecasts’. In 1854, he established what would later be called the Met Office, and founded systems to relay weather information to sailors and fishermen for their safety. He was a surveyor and a hydrographer, as well as Governor of New Zealand for a few years, where he tried to protect the Maori from illegal land sales claimed by British settlers. He died having exhausted his entire fortune (£6,000, worth £400,000 today) on public expenditure.Testaments to his life’s work can be found throughout the British Isles, including an aneroid and a FitzRoy barometer with storm glass on the wall of 35 North Street, St Andrews.

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