SABINE, SIR EDWARD (1788–1883), English astronomer and geodesist, was born in Dublin on the 14th of October 1788, a scion of a family said to be of Italian origin. He was educated at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and obtained a commission in the royal artillery at the age of fifteen, attaining the rank of major-general in 1859. His only experience of warfare seems to have been at the siege of Fort Erie (Canada) in 1814. In early life he devoted himself to astronomy and physical geography, and in consequence he was appointed astronomer to various expeditions, among others that of Sir J. Ross (1818) in search of the North-West Passage, and that of Sir E. Parry soon afterwards. Later, he spent long periods on the inter-tropical coasts of Africa and America, and again among the snows of Spitzbergen. He was associated with Henry Williams Chisholm and others as a member of the Royal Commission of 1868-1869 for standardizing weights and measures. Sabine was for ten years (1861-1871) president of the Royal Society, and was made K.C.B. in 1869. He died at East Sheen, Surrey, on the 26th of May 1883.
Of Sabine's scientific work two branches in particular deserve very high credit—his determination of the length of the second's pendulum, and his extensive researches connected with terrestrial magnetism. The establishment of a system of magnetic observatories in various parts of British territory all over the globe was accomplished mainly on his representations; and a great part of his life was devoted to their direction, and to the reduction and discussion of the observations. While the majority of his researches bear on one or other of the subjects just mentioned, others deal with such widely different topics as the birds of Greenland, ocean temperatures, the Gulf Stream, barometric measurement of heights, arcs of meridian, glacier transport of rocks, the volcanoes of the Hawaiian Islands, and various points of meteorology.