Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Ainsworth, William Francis
AINSWORTH, WILLIAM FRANCIS (1807–1896), geographer and geologist, born on 9 Nov. 1807 at Exeter, was the son of John Ainsworth of Rostherne in Cheshire, captain in the 15th and 128th regiments. The novelist, William Harrison Ainsworth [q. v.], was his cousin, and at his instance he adopted the additional Christian name of Francis to avoid confusion of personality. In 1827 he became a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, where he filled the office of president in the Royal Physical and the Plinian societies. He afterwards proceeded to London and Paris, where he became an interne at the school of mines. While in France he gained practical experience of geology among the mountains of Auvergne and the Pyrenees. After studying at Brussels he returned to Scotland in 1829 and founded, in 1830, the 'Edinburgh Journal of Natural and Geographical Science,' which was discontinued in the following year. In 1831, on the appearance of cholera at Sunderland, Ainsworth proceeded thither to study it, and published his experiences in 'Observations on the Pestilential Cholera,' London, 1832, 8vo. This treatise led to his appointment as surgeon to the cholera hospital of St. George's, Hanover Square. On the outbreak of the disease in Ireland he acted successively as surgeon of the hospitals at Westport, Ballinrobe, Claremorris, and Newport. He subsequently recorded many incidents of his sojourn in 'Ainsworth's Magazine' and the 'New Monthly Magazine.' In 1834 he published 'An Account of the Caves of Ballybunian in Kerry,' Dublin, 8vo, in which he showed a grasp of geological principles remarkable in a treatise of so early a date.
In 1836 Ainsworth, after studying the art of making observations under Sir Edward Sabine [q. v.], was appointed surgeon and geologist to the expedition to the Euphrates under Francis Rawdon Chesney [q. v.] On his return he published his observations under the title of 'Researches in Assyria, Babylonia, and Chaldsea,' London, 1838, 8vo, with a dedication to Chesney. Shortly afterwards he was placed in charge of an expedition to the Christians of Chaldaea, which was sent out by the Royal Geographical Society and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. He proceeded to Mesopotamia, through Asia Minor, the passes of Taurus, and Northern Syria, reaching Mosul in the spring of 1840. During the summer he explored the Kurdistan mountains and visited the lake of Urimiyeh in Persian territory, returning through Greater Armenia, and reaching Constantinople late in 1840. The expedition proved more tedious than had been anticipated; the funds for its support were exhausted, and Ainsworth was left to find his way home at his own expense. In 1842 he published an account of the expedition entitled 'Travels and Researches in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Chaldsea, and Armenia,' London, 2 vols. 12mo. Two years later, in 1844, he produced his masterpiece, the 'Travels in the Track of the Ten Thousand Greeks,' London, 8vo, a geographical and descriptive account of the expedition of Cyrus and of the retreat of his Greek mercenaries after the death of the Persian prince. In 1854 he furnished a geographical commentary to accompany the translation of Xenophon's 'Anabasis' by John Selby Watson [q. v.], which was issued in Bohn's 'Classical Library,' and was republished in 1894 as one of Sir John Lubbock's 'Hundred Books.'
After his return to England in 1841 Ainsworth settled at Hammersmith, and assisted his cousin, William Harrison Ainsworth, in the conduct of several magazines, including 'Ainsworth's,' 'Bentley's Miscellany,' and the 'New Monthly.' In 1871 he succeeded his cousin as editor of the 'New Monthly Magazine,' and continued in that post until 1879. For some years he acted as honorary secretary to the Syro-Egyptian Society, founded in 1844, and he was concerned with various endeavours to promote the adoption of the Euphrates and Tigris valleys route to India, with which Chesney's expedition had been connected. He was one of the founders of the West London Hospital, and its honorary treasurer until his death at 11 Wolverton Gardens, Hammersmith, on 27 Nov. 1896. He was the last survivor of the original fellows of the newly formed Royal Geographical Society in 1830, was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries on 14 April 1853, and was also a corresponding member of several foreign societies. He married, and left a son and two daughters.
Besides the works already mentioned Ainsworth was the author of: 1. 'The Claims of the Christian Aborigines of the Turkish or Osmanlee Empire upon Civilised Nations,' London, 1843, 12mo. 2. 'All Round the World, an Illustrated Record of Travels, Voyages, and Adventures,' London, 1860-2, 4 vols. 4to. 3. 'Wanderings in every Clime,' London, 1872, 4to. 4. 'A Personal Narrative of the Euphrates Expedition,' London, 1888, 2 vols. 8vo. 5. 'The River Kariin, an Opening to British Commerce,' London, 1890, 8vo. He also translated Francois Auguste Marie Mignet's 'Antonio Perez and Philip II,' London, 1846, 8vo, and edited 'Lares and Penates' from the papers of William Burckhardt Barker [q. v.], London, 1853, 8vo.[Geogr. Journ. 1897, ix. 98; Biograph, 1881, vi. 350-3; Athenæum, 1896, ii. 799; Times, 30 Nov. 1896; Mrs. Chesney and Mrs. O'Donnell's Life of General Chesney, ed. Stanley Lane-Poole, 1885.]