Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Beaufort, Francis

BEAUFORT, Sir FRANCIS (1774–1857), rear-admiral and hydrographer to the navy, was the son of the Rev. Daniel Augustus Beaufort [q. v.], rector of Navan, county Meath, himself a topographer of some distinction. His sister Frances married Richard Lovell Edgeworth, and was thus the stepmother of Maria Edgeworth, the novelist. He entered the navy in June 1787, under the care of Captain Hugh Cloberry Christian, on board the Colossus; during the Spanish armament of 1790 he was a midshipman of the Latona frigate, with Captain Albemarle Bertie, and was afterwards with the Hon. Robert Stopford, in the Aquilon, 32 guns, one of the repeating frigates in Lord Howe's action of 1 June 1794. He followed Captain Stopford to the Phaeton, 38 guns, and in her he saw much active and splendid service, including Cornwallis's retreat, 17 June 1795, and the capture of the Flore, 36 guns, on 8 Sept. 1798. Beaufort was made a lieutenant on 10 May 1796; and on 28 Oct. 1800, being then first lieutenant of the Phaeton, under Captain James Kicoll Morris, he commanded the boats of that ship when they cut out the Spanish ship, San Josef, of 26 guns, from under the guns of Fangerolle Castle, near Malaga; in this service he received nineteen wounds in the head, arms, and body, three sword cuts and sixteen musket shots, and dearly won his promotion to the rank of commander, which bore date 13 Nov., as well as a wound pension of 45l. For some years after this he was unemployed at sea, and in 1803–4 assisted his brother-in-law, Mr. Edgeworth, in establishing a line of telegraphs from Dublin to Galway. In June 1805 he was appointed to the command of the Woolwich, armed store-ship, in which, during the presence of the fleet on Buenos Ayres in 1807, he made an accurate survey of the entrance to the Rio de la Plata. In May 1809 he was appointed to the Blossom, employed in convoy duty on the coast of Spain. On 30 May 1810 he was advanced to post rank, and appointed to the Frederiksteen frigate. During the two following years he was employed in the archipelago, principally in surveying the coast of Karamania, and incidentally in suppressing some of the most barbarous of the Mainote pirates. His work was brought to an untimely end by the attack of some Turkish fanatics on his boat's crew, 20 June 1812. Beaufort was badly wounded in the hip, and after months of danger and suffering at Malta was obliged to return to England, and the Frederiksteen was paid off on 29 Oct. The account of this survey and exploration he afterwards published in an interesting volume entitled 'Karamania, or a brief description of the South Coast of Asia Minor, and of the Remains of Antiquity' (8vo, 1817); and, it is said, refused to accept any payment for the manuscript on the ground that the materials of the work were acquired in his majesty's service and in the execution of a public duty. For many years after his return to England he was engaged in constructing the charts of his survey, with his own hand, and the charts were engraved directly from his drawings, as sent in to the Hydrographic Office. In 1829 he was appointed hydrographer to the navy, and during the twenty-six years through which he held that post rendered his name almost a synonym in the navy for hydrography and nautical science. It is still preserved by the general introduction of the scale of wind force, and the tabulated system of weather registration in common use both afloat and ashore. These expedients occurred to him when he was captain of the Woolwich, 1805, and wished to render the ship's log at once more concise and more comprehensive. In April 1835 he was a member of a commission for inquiring into the laws under which pilots were appointed, governed, and paid; and in January 1846 of another commission for inquiring into the state of harbours, shores, and rivers of the United Kingdom. On 1 Oct. 1846, according to an order in council just issued, he was made a rear-admiral on the retired list; and on 29 April 1848 he was made a K.C.B. in acknowledgment of his civil services as hydrographer, which post he continued to hold almost till the last. He retired in 1855, only two years before his death on 17 Dec. 1857. A subscription memorial took the form of a prize awarded annually to that young naval officer,candidate for the rank of lieutenant, who passes the best examination in navigation and other kindred subjects, at the Royal Naval College, in addition to which a portrait, by Stephen Pearce, was placed in the PaintedHall at Greenwich Hospital. His scientific work was solely in connection with his office; though a fellow of the Royal Society, his name as an author does not appear in the 'Philosophical Transactions,' and the only papers attributed to him in the 'Royal Society Catalogue' are: 1. 'Account of an Earthquake at Sea,' in 'Edinburgh Journal of Science,' v. (1826), 232–4. 2. 'Determination of the Longitude of Papeété, from observations of a Partial Eclipse of the Sun, 'in 'Monthly Notices of Royal Astron. Soc.' xiv. (1853–4), 48–9. He was for many years engaged in his own house in preparing the extensive Atlas published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. For this labour of many years, to execute which he rose daily between five and six, he received no remuneration, except a magnificent copy of the large edition of the 'Gallery of Portraits,' presented only to him, the king of the French, and the Duke of Devonshire. He was a fellow of the Royal and Royal Astronomical Societies, and a member of the Royal Irish Academy, a corresponding member of the Institute of France and of the United States Naval Lyceum.

Sir Francis married Alicia Magdalena Wilson. Their son, Francis Lestock Beaufort, born in 1815, served in the Bengal civil service from 1837 to 1876, and was for many years judge of the twenty-four Purgunnahs, Calcutta. He was the author of the well-known 'Digest of the Criminal Law Procedure in Bengal' (1850), and died in 1879.

[Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biog. vi. (supplement, part ii.), 82; O'Byrne's Nav. Biog. Dict.; Gent. Mag. 1858, i. 118; information from W. M. Beaufort, Esq.]

J. K. L.