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LAMBTON, WILLIAM (1756–1823) lieutenant-colonel, Indian geodesist, born in 1756 at Crosby Grange, near Northallerton, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, of humble parents, and learnt his letters at Borrowby. Some neighbouring gentlemen, hearing of him as a promising lad, entered him at the grammar school at Northallerton, where there was a foundation for four free scholars. He finished his studies under Dr. Charles Hutton [q. v.], then mathematical master at the high school or grammar school at Newcastle-on-Tyne. On 28 March 1781 Lambton was appointed ensign in Lord Fauconberg's foot, one of the so-called 'provincial' or home-service regiments then raised on the footing of the later 'fencible' regiments. Fauconberg's regiment was disbanded in 1783. Meanwhile Lambton had been transferred to the 33rd (West Riding) regiment, now the 1st battalion Duke of Wellington's regiment, in which he became lieutenant in 1794. Lambton appears on the muster-rolls of the regiment in 1782-3 as in 'public employ,' and afterwards as barrack-master at St. John's, New Brunswick, a post which he held with his regimental rank until about 1795. He joined and did duty with the 33rd, when commanded by Wellesley, at the Cape in 1796, and accompanied it to Bengal, and subsequently to Madras in September 1798. Two papers on the 'Theory of Walls' and on the 'Maximum of Mechanical Power and the Effects of Machines in Motion,' were communicated by Lambton to the Asiatic Society about this time (Asiatic Researches, vol. vi.), and were printed in the 'Philosophical Transactions'.' Lambton served as brigade-major to General David Baird [q. v.] against Seringapatam. His knowledge of the stars saved his brigade during a night-march in the course of the campaign (Hook, Life of Baird. vol. i.) After the storm and capture of Seringapatam, 4 May 1799, Lambton accompanied his brigade in its march to secure the surrender of the hill-forts in Mysore. His journal from August to December 1799 is among the Mornington Papers (Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 13658). When the brigade was broken up, Lambton was appointed brigade—major of the troops on the Coromandel coast, ante-dated from 22 Aug. 1790.

At this time Lambton presented a memorial to the governor of Madras in council, suggesting a survey connecting the Malabar and the Coromandel coasts, and was appointed to conduct the work (Asiat. Res. vol. 1801). Preparations were already in progress on New-year's day 1800 (Wellington, Suplelementary Despatches, i. 62-3). Pending the arrival of instruments from Bengal, a baseline seven and a half English miles in length was measured near Bangalore in October to December 1800. The records of the measurement are now in the map room at the India office. In 1802, the necessary instruments having arrived, operations commenced with the measurement of a base near St. Thomas' Mount, Madras, in connection with the Bangalore base. Lambton was assisted by lieutenants Henry Kater [q. v.], 12th foot, and John Warren, 33rd foot. From this time the survey operations, combined with the measurement of an arc of the meridian, were carried on without any important intermission, in the face of numberless technical difficulties which later experience has overcome. The reports and maps are preserved in the map room of the India office (see Account of Trigonometrical Operations, 1802–1823). The survey reports include particulars of several base measurements, the last taken at Beder in 1815; the latitudes, longitudes, and altitudes of a great number of places in southern and central India; and observations on terrestrial refraction and pendulum observations.

Lambton became captain in the 33rd foot, without purchase, 25 June 1806, and purchased his majority in the regiment 1 March 1808. When the 33rd returned home from Madras in 1812, Lambton remained behind as superintendent of the Indian survey. He became lieutenant-colonel by brevet 4 June 1814, and was placed on half-pay in consequence of the reduction of the army, 25 Dec. 1818. He was a F.R.S. (see Thomson, Hist. Roy. Soc.), a fellow of the Asiatic Society, and a corresponding member of the French Academy.

Lambton died of lung-disease at Hinganghat, fifty miles from Nagpore, on 26 Jan. 1823, at the age of sixty-seven. His beautiful instruments and well-selected library were disposed of at a camp auction, and a few autobiographical notes, known to be among his papers, have not been traced.

Sir George Everest [q. v.], who was appointed Lambton's chief assistant in 1817, describes him at that period as six feet high, erect, well-formed, bony and muscular. He was a fair-complexioned man, with blue eyes. He seemed ‘a tranquil and exceedingly good-humoured person, very fond of his joke, a great admirer of the fair sex, partial to singing glees and duets, and everything, in short, that promoted harmony and tended to make life pass easily.’

[Ingleden's Hist. of North Allerton; Clement Markham's Indian Surveys, London; Memoir in the Army and Navy Mag. December 1885, London, 8vo.]

H. M. C.