Robert FitzRoy

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Robert FitzRoy
Robert Fitzroy.jpg
Robert FitzRoy
2nd Governor of New Zealand
In office
26 December 1843 18 November 1845
Monarch Victoria
Preceded byCaptain William Hobson
Succeeded bySir George Grey
Personal details
Born(1805-07-05)5 July 1805
Ampton, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Died30 April 1865(1865-04-30) (aged 59)
Upper Norwood, England
Cause of deathSuicide
  • Mary Henrietta O'Brien
  • Maria Isabella Smyth

Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy FRS (5 July 1805 – 30 April 1865) was an English officer of the Royal Navy and a scientist. He achieved lasting fame as the captain of HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin's famous voyage, FitzRoy's second expedition to Tierra del Fuego and the Southern Cone.

Fellow of the Royal Society Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, including Honorary, Foreign and Royal Fellows

Fellowship of the UK Royal Society is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of London judges to have made a 'substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science, and medical science'.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

HMS <i>Beagle</i> Cherokee-class 10-gun brig-sloop of the Royal Navy

HMS Beagle was a Cherokee-class 10-gun brig-sloop of the Royal Navy, one of more than 100 ships of this class. The vessel, constructed at a cost of £7,803, was launched on 11 May 1820 from the Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames. In July of that year she took part in a fleet review celebrating the coronation of King George IV of the United Kingdom, and for that occasion is said to have been the first ship to sail completely under the old London Bridge. There was no immediate need for Beagle so she "lay in ordinary", moored afloat but without masts or rigging. She was then adapted as a survey barque and took part in three survey expeditions.


FitzRoy was a pioneering meteorologist who made accurate daily weather predictions, which he called by a new name of his own invention: "forecasts". [1] In 1854 he established what would later be called the Met Office, and created systems to get weather information to sailors and fishermen for their safety. [1] He was an able surveyor and hydrographer. As Governor of New Zealand, serving from 1843 to 1845, he tried to protect the Māori from illegal land sales claimed by British settlers. [2]

Meteorology Interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere focusing on weather forecasting

Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences which includes atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric physics, with a major focus on weather forecasting. The study of meteorology dates back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw modest progress in the field after weather observation networks were formed across broad regions. Prior attempts at prediction of weather depended on historical data. It was not until after the elucidation of the laws of physics and more particularly, the development of the computer, allowing for the automated solution of a great many equations that model the weather, in the latter half of the 20th century that significant breakthroughs in weather forecasting were achieved. An important domain of weather forecasting is marine weather forecasting as it relates to maritime and coastal safety, in which weather effects also include atmospheric interactions with large bodies of water.

Weather forecasting application of science and technology to predict the conditions of the atmosphere for a given location and time

Weather forecasting is the application of science and technology to predict the conditions of the atmosphere for a given location and time. People have attempted to predict the weather informally for millennia and formally since the 19th century. Weather forecasts are made by collecting quantitative data about the current state of the atmosphere at a given place and using meteorology to project how the atmosphere will change.

Met Office United Kingdoms national weather service

The Met Office is the United Kingdom's national weather service. It is an executive agency and trading fund of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy led by CEO, Penelope Endersby, who took on the role as Chief Executive in December 2018, the first woman to do so. The Met Office makes meteorological predictions across all timescales from weather forecasts to climate change.

Early life and career

Robert FitzRoy was born at Ampton Hall, Ampton, Suffolk, England, into the upper echelons of the British aristocracy and a tradition of public service. Through his father, General Lord Charles FitzRoy, Robert was a fourth great-grandson of Charles II of England; his paternal grandfather was Augustus Henry FitzRoy, 3rd Duke of Grafton. His mother, Lady Frances Stewart, was the daughter of the first Marquess of Londonderry and the half-sister of Viscount Castlereagh, who became Foreign Secretary. From the age of four, Robert FitzRoy lived with his family at Wakefield Lodge, their Palladian mansion in Northamptonshire.

Ampton Hall

Ampton Hall is a Grade II-listed Jacobean style manor house in Ampton, Suffolk, England.

Aristocracy is a form of government that places strength in the hands of a small, privileged ruling class. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning 'rule of the best-born'.

General Lord Charles FitzRoy was a British Army officer and politician.

Robert's half-brother Sir Charles FitzRoy later served as Governor of New South Wales, Governor of Prince Edward Island and Governor of Antigua.

Charles Augustus FitzRoy British military officer

Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy was a British military officer, politician and member of the aristocracy, who held governorships in several British colonies during the 19th century.

Governor of New South Wales vice-regal representative of the Australian monarch in New South Wales

The Governor of New South Wales is the viceregal representative of the Australian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in the state of New South Wales. In an analogous way to the Governor-General of Australia at the national level, the Governors of the Australian states perform constitutional and ceremonial functions at the state level. The governor is appointed by the queen on the advice of the premier of New South Wales, for an unfixed period of time—known as serving At Her Majesty's pleasure—though five years is the norm. The current governor is retired judge Margaret Beazley, who succeeded David Hurley on 2 May 2019.

In February 1818 at the age of 12, FitzRoy entered the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth, and in the following year he entered the Royal Navy. At the age of 14, he embarked as a voluntary student aboard the frigate HMS Owen Glendower, which sailed to South America in the middle of 1820, and returned in January 1822. He was promoted to midshipman while on the vessel. FitzRoy served on HMS Hind as a midshipman.

Royal Naval Academy former facility at Portsmouth Dockyard to train officers for the Royal Navy

The Royal Naval Academy was a facility established in 1733 in Portsmouth Dockyard to train officers for the Royal Navy. The founders' intentions were to provide an alternative means to recruit officers and to provide standardised training, education and admission. In 1806 it was renamed the Royal Naval College and in 1816 became the Royal Naval College and the School for Naval Architecture. It was closed as a training establishment for officer entrants in 1837.

Frigate Type of warship

A frigate is a type of warship, having various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.

HMS <i>Owen Glendower</i> (1808)

HMS Owen Glendower was a Royal Navy 36-gun fifth-rate Apollo class frigate launched in 1808 and disposed of in 1884. In between she was instrumental in the seizure of the Danish island of Anholt, captured prizes in the Channel during the Napoleonic Wars, sailed to the East Indies and South America, participated in the suppression of the slave trade, and served as a prison hulk in Gibraltar before she was sold in 1884.

He completed his course with distinction and was promoted lieutenant on 7 September 1824, having passed the examination with 'full numbers' (100%), the first to achieve this result. After serving on HMS Thetis, in 1828 he was appointed flag lieutenant to Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Waller Otway, commander-in-chief of the South American station, aboard HMS Ganges.

HMS Thetis was a 46-gun Leda-class fifth-rate frigate built for the Royal Navy during the 1810s. She was first commissioned in 1823 and was assigned to the South America Station three years later. The ship was wrecked in 1830 off Cape Frio, Brazil, with the loss of 22 crewmen; most of her cargo of bullion was successfully salvaged.

HMS <i>Ganges</i> (1821)

HMS Ganges was an 84-gun second-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 10 November 1821 at Bombay Dockyard, constructed from teak. She is notable for being the last sailing ship of the Navy to serve as a flagship, and was the second ship to bear the name.

At that time Beagle, under Captain Pringle Stokes, was carrying out a hydrographic survey of Tierra del Fuego, under the overall command of Captain Phillip Parker King in HMS Adventure. Pringle Stokes became severely depressed and fatally shot himself. Under Lieutenant Skyring, the ship sailed to Rio de Janeiro, where Otway appointed FitzRoy as (temporary) captain of the Beagle on 15 December 1828. By the ship's return to England on 14 October 1830, FitzRoy had established his reputation as a surveyor and commander.

During the survey, some of his men were camping onshore when a group of Fuegian natives made off with their boat. His ship gave chase and, after a scuffle, the culprits' families were brought on board as hostages. Eventually FitzRoy held two boys, a girl and two men (one man escaped.) As it was not possible to put them ashore conveniently, he decided to "civilise the savages", teaching them "English ... the plainer truths of Christianity ... and the use of common tools" before returning them as missionaries.[ citation needed ]

The sailors gave them names: the girl was called Fuegia Basket (so named because the replacement for the stolen boat was an improvised coracle that resembled a basket), the boy Jemmy Button (FitzRoy purchased him with buttons), and the man he named York Minster (after the large rock near which he was captured). The second boy was called Boat Memory. FitzRoy brought the four back with the ship to England. Boat Memory died following a smallpox vaccination. The others were cared for and taught by the trainee missionary Richard Matthews; they were considered civilised enough to be presented at Court to King William IV and Queen Adelaide in the summer of 1831.

HMS Beagle's second voyage

In early May 1831 FitzRoy stood as Tory candidate for Ipswich in the General Election, but was defeated. His hopes of obtaining a new posting and organising a missionary project to Tierra del Fuego appeared to be failing. He was arranging for the charter of a ship at his own expense to return the Fuegians with Matthews when his friend Francis Beaufort, Hydrographer to the British Admiralty, and his "kind uncle", the Duke of Grafton, interceded on his behalf at the Admiralty. On 25 June 1831 FitzRoy was re-appointed commander of the Beagle. He spared no expense in fitting out the ship.

He was conscious of the stressful loneliness of command. He knew of the suicides both of Captain Stokes and of his uncle Viscount Castlereagh, who had cut his own throat in 1822 while in government office. FitzRoy talked to Beaufort in August 1831, asking him to find a suitable gentleman companion for the voyage. Such a companion should share his scientific tastes, make good use of the expedition's opportunities for researching natural history, dine with him as an equal, and provide a semblance of normal human friendship. [3] While those Beaufort first approached (including Professor J. S. Henslow of the University of Cambridge) turned the opportunity down, FitzRoy eventually approved Charles Darwin for the position. Before they left England, FitzRoy gave Darwin a copy of the first volume of Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology, a book the captain had read that explained terrestrial features as the outcome of a gradual process taking place over extremely long periods. FitzRoy took a request from Lyell to record observations on geological features, such as erratic boulders. [4]

FitzRoy and Darwin got on well together, but there were inevitable strains during the five-year survey voyage. The captain had a violent temper, his outbursts had gained him the nickname "Hot Coffee", [5] which resulted in quarrels sometimes "bordering on insanity", as Darwin later recalled. On a memorable occasion in March 1832 at Bahia, Brazil, Darwin was horrified at tales of the treatment of slaves. FitzRoy, while not endorsing brutality, recounted how an estancia owner once asked his slaves if they wished to be free and was told they did not. Darwin asked FitzRoy if he thought slaves could answer such a question honestly when it was posed by their master, at which the captain lost his temper and, before storming out, told Darwin that if he doubted his word they could no longer live together; effectively he banished Darwin from his table. Before nightfall FitzRoy's temper cooled and he sent an apology, with the request that Darwin "continue to live with him." They avoided the subject of slavery from that time on. None of their quarrels were over religious or doctrinal issues; such disagreements came after the voyage. [3]

At the island of "Buttons Land" in Tierra del Fuego they set up a mission post, but when they returned nine days later, the possessions had been looted. Matthews gave up, rejoining the ship. He left the three "westernised" Fuegians to continue the missionary work.

While in the Falkland Islands, FitzRoy bought a schooner out of his own funds to assist with the surveying tasks he had been asked to complete. He had it refitted and renamed Adventure, hoping that the cost would be reimbursed by the Admiralty. They returned to the mission post but found only Jemmy Button. He had returned to native ways and refused the offer to go with them back to England.

At Valparaiso in 1834, while Darwin was away from the ship exploring the Andes, the Admiralty reprimanded FitzRoy for buying the Adventure. He took the criticism badly, selling the schooner and announcing they would go back to recheck his survey, then resigning his command with doubts about his sanity. The ship's officers persuaded him to withdraw his resignation and continue as planned once Darwin returned to the ship. [5] FitzRoy continued his voyage, sailing on to the Galapagos, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. He detoured to Bahia in Brazil on the return voyage so that he could carry out an additional check, to ensure the accuracy of his longitude measurements before returning to England.

Return from the voyage

Soon after the Beagle's return on 2 October 1836, FitzRoy married Mary Henrietta O'Brien, a young woman to whom he had long been engaged. Darwin was amazed, as not once during the entire five years of the trip had FitzRoy spoken about being engaged.

FitzRoy was awarded a gold medal by the Royal Geographical Society in 1837. Extracts from his diary read to the society on 8 May 1837 included the observation:

Is it not extraordinary, that sea-worn, rolled, shingle-stones, and alluvial accumulations, compose the greater portion of these plains? How vast, and of what immense duration, must have been the actions of these waters which smoothed the shingle-stones now buried in the deserts of Patagonia!" [6]

FitzRoy wrote his account of the voyage, including editing the notes of the previous captain of the Beagle. It was published in May 1839 as the Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of H.M.S. Adventure and Beagle, in four volumes, including Darwin's Journal and Remarks, 1832—1836 as the third volume. FitzRoy's account includes a section of Remarks with reference to the Deluge in which he admits that, having read works "by geologists who contradict, by implication, if not in plain terms, the authenticity of the Scriptures" and "while led away by sceptical ideas," he had remarked to a friend that the vast plain of sedimentary material they were crossing "could never have been effected by a forty days' flood." He wrote that in his "turn of mind and ignorance of scripture," he was willing to disbelieve the Biblical account. Concerned that such ideas might "reach the eyes of young sailors," he explains in detail his renewed commitment to a literal reading of the Bible, with arguments that rock layers high in the mountains containing sea shells are proof of Noah's Flood and that the six days of creation could not have extended over aeons because the grass, herbs and trees would have died out during the long nights. [7] [8]

R.D. Keynes, in his introduction to the 2001 edition of Darwin's diary, suggests that FitzRoy had undergone a religious conversion. [8] He was dissociating himself from the new ideas of Charles Lyell, which he had accepted during the voyage, and from Darwin's account which embraced these ideas. Under the influence of his very religious wife, he asserted a new commitment to the doctrine of the established Church of England. [5]

In 1841 FitzRoy was elected the Tory Member of Parliament for Durham. He was appointed Acting Conservator of the River Mersey in 1842.

Governor of New Zealand

The first Governor of New Zealand, Captain William Hobson, R.N., died in late 1842. The Church Missionary Society, which had a strong New Zealand presence, suggested FitzRoy as his successor and he was appointed by the government. He took up his new task in December 1843. On the journey to New Zealand, he met William John Warburton Hamilton and made him his private secretary. [9]

His instructions were to maintain order and protect the Māori, while satisfying the land hunger of the settlers pouring into the country. He was given very few military resources. Government revenue, mainly from customs duties, was woefully inadequate for his responsibilities.

One of his first tasks was to enquire into the circumstances surrounding the Wairau Affray, in which there had been violent conflict between settlers and the Maori. He found the actions of the colonists to have been illegal and declined to take any action against Te Rauparaha. He did not have the troops to meet him on anything like equal terms. But the New Zealand Company and the settlers felt betrayed and angry. He appointed a Government Superintendent for the area, to establish a ruling presence. Fitzroy also insisted that the New Zealand Company pay the Māori a realistic price for the land they claimed to have purchased. These moves made him very unpopular.

Land sales were a continuing vexatious issue. The settlers were eager to buy land and some Māori were willing to sell, but under the provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi, land sales required the Government as an intermediary, and were thus extremely slow. FitzRoy changed the rules to allow settlers to purchase Māori land directly, subject to a duty of ten shillings per acre. But land sales proved slower than expected.

To meet the financial shortfall, FitzRoy raised the customs duties, then replaced them with property and income taxes. All these expedients failed. Before long the Colony was faced with bankruptcy, and FitzRoy was forced to begin issuing promissory notes, paper money without backing.

Meanwhile, the Māori in the far North, around the Bay of Islands, who had been the first to sign the Treaty of Waitangi, were feeling increasingly sidelined and resentful of the changes that had taken place in New Zealand. To signal their resentment, Hone Heke cut down the flagpole at Kororareka. Rather than address the problems, FitzRoy had the flagpole re-erected. Hone Heke cut it down again, four times altogether; by the fourth occasion the First New Zealand War, sometimes called the Flagstaff War or the Northern War, was well under way.

FitzRoy quickly realized that he did not have the resources to bring about a quick end to the war. Meanwhile, the spokesmen for the New Zealand Company were active back in the United Kingdom, lobbying against FitzRoy's Governorship, which they presented to the House of Commons in a very poor light. As a result, he was shortly afterwards recalled and replaced by George Grey, then Governor of South Australia. Grey was given the backing and financial support that FitzRoy had needed but was denied.

Later life and impact on meteorology

FitzRoy circa 1855 FitzRoy.jpg
FitzRoy circa 1855

FitzRoy returned to Britain in September 1848 and was made superintendent of the Royal Naval Dockyards at Woolwich. In March 1849 he was given his final sea command, the screw frigate HMS Arrogant. [10]

In 1850, FitzRoy retired from active service, partly due to ill health. The following year, in 1851, he was elected to the Royal Society with the support of 13 fellows, including Charles Darwin. [11]

In 1854, on the recommendation of the President of the Royal Society, FitzRoy was appointed as chief of a new department to deal with the collection of weather data at sea. His title was Meteorological Statist to the Board of Trade, and he had a staff of three. This was the forerunner of the modern Meteorological Office. He arranged for captains of ships to provide information, with tested instruments being loaned for this purpose, and for computation of the data collected. [12]

Fitzroy fisheries barometer No 98, Stromness, Orkney Fitzroy fisheries barometer No 98, Stromness, Orkney.jpg
Fitzroy fisheries barometer No 98, Stromness, Orkney

FitzRoy soon began to work on strategies to make weather information more widely available for the safety of shipping and fishermen. He directed the design and distribution of a type of barometer which, on his recommendation, was fixed at every port to be available to crews for consultation before setting out to sea. Stone housings for such barometers are still visible at many fishing harbours. [13] The invention of several different types of barometers was attributed to him. These became popular and continued in production into the 20th century, characteristically engraved with Admiral FitzRoy's special remarks on interpretation, such as: "When rising: In winter the rise of the barometer presages frost." [14]

A storm in 1859 that caused the loss of the Royal Charter inspired FitzRoy to develop charts to allow predictions to be made in which he coined the term "weather forecast". [12] Fifteen land stations were established to use the new telegraph to transmit to him daily reports of weather at set times. The first daily weather forecasts were published in The Times in 1861. [1] The 1859 storm resulted in the Crown distributing storm glasses, then known as "FitzRoy's storm barometers", to many small fishing communities around the British Isles. [15]

In 1860, FitzRoy introduced a system of hoisting storm warning cones at the principal ports when a gale was expected. He ordered fleets to stay in port under these conditions. [16] The Weather Book, which he published in 1863, was far in advance of the scientific opinion of the time. [17] Queen Victoria once sent messengers to FitzRoy's home requesting a weather forecast for a crossing she was about to make to the Isle of Wight. [1]

Many fishing fleet owners objected to the posting of gale warnings, which required that fleets not leave the ports. Under this pressure, FitzRoy's system was abandoned for a short time after his death. The fishing fleet owners reckoned without the pressure of the fishermen, for whom FitzRoy had been a hero responsible for saving many lives. The system would was eventually reinstated in simplified form in 1874. [16]

When The Origin of Species was published FitzRoy was dismayed and apparently felt guilty for his part in the theory's development. He was in Oxford on 30 June 1860 to present a paper on storms and attended the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at which Samuel Wilberforce attacked Darwin's theory. During the debate FitzRoy, seen as "a grey haired Roman nosed elderly gentleman", stood in the centre of the audience and "lifting an immense Bible first with both and afterwards with one hand over his head, solemnly implored the audience to believe God rather than man". As he admitted that The Origin of Species had given him "acutest pain", the crowd shouted him down.

FitzRoy debunked Lieutenant Stephen Martin Saxby's lunar weather forecasting method as pseudoscience. Saxby tried to counter FitzRoy's arguments in the second edition of his book Saxby Weather System (1864). [18]

Death and legacy

Robert FitzRoy's grave Robert FitzRoy's Grave.JPG
Robert FitzRoy's grave

FitzRoy had been promoted to rear-admiral on the reserved list in 1857 [19] and was advanced to vice-admiral in 1863. [20] In the coming years, internal and external troubles at the Meteorological Office, financial concerns as well as failing health, and his struggle with depression took their toll. [21] On 30 April 1865, Vice-Admiral FitzRoy died by suicide [22] by cutting his throat with a razor. [23] FitzRoy died having exhausted his entire fortune (£6,000, the equivalent of £400,000 today) on public expenditure.

When this came to light, in order to prevent his wife and daughter living in destitution, his friend and colleague Bartholomew Sulivan began an Admiral FitzRoy Testimonial Fund, which succeeded in getting the government to pay back £3,000 of this sum. [24] (Charles Darwin contributed £100). [25] Queen Victoria gave the special favour of allowing his widow and daughter the use of grace and favour apartments at Hampton Court Palace. [26]

FitzRoy is buried in the front churchyard of All Saints' Church in Upper Norwood, south London. His memorial was restored by the Meteorological Office in 1981.

FitzRoy's publications arising from the expedition were a major reference point for 19th century Chilean explorers of the westen Patagonia. FitzRoy's book Sailing Directions for South America led Chilean Navy hydrographer Francisco Hudson to investigate in the 1850s the possible existence of a sailing route through internal waters from the Chiloé Archipelago to the Straits of Magellan. Hudson was the first to realise that the Isthmus of Ofqui made this route impossible. [27] Enrique Simpson found instead FitzRoy's mapping of little use noting in 1870 that "Fitzroy's chart, that is quite exact until that point [ Melinka 43° 53' S], is worthless further ahead...". Thus, south of Melinka Simpson relied more in the late 18th century sketches of José de Moraleda y Montero. [28] Simpson's contemporary Francisco Vidal Gormaz was critical of the over-all work of FitzRoy and Darwin stating that they had failed to acknowledge the importance of the Patagonian islands. [29]

Personal life

Robert FitzRoy was married twice. In 1836 he married Mary Henrietta O'Brien. They had four children: Emily-Unah, Fanny, Katherine and Robert O'Brien. In 1854, after the death of his first wife, he married Maria Isabella Smyth in London. They had one daughter, Laura Elizabeth.


A memorial to FitzRoy is erected atop a metamorphic outcrop beside the Bahia Wulaia dome middens on Isla Navarino, in the Chilean part of Tierra del Fuego archipelago, South America. [30] It was presented in his bicentenary (2005) and commemorates his 23 January 1833 landing on Wulaia Cove. Another memorial, presented also in FitzRoy's bicentenary, commemorates his Cape Horn landing on 19 April 1830.

Mount Fitz Roy (ArgentinaChile, at the extreme south of the continent), was named after him by the Argentine scientist and explorer Francisco Moreno. It is 3,440 m (11,286 ft) high. The aboriginals had not named it, and used the word chaltén (meaning smoking mountain) for this and other peaks. Fitzroy River, in northern Western Australia, was named after him by Lieutenant John Lort Stokes who, at the time, commanded HMS Beagle (previously commanded by FitzRoy). The South American conifer Fitzroya cupressoides is named after him, as well as the Delphinus fitzroyi, a species of dolphin discovered by Darwin during his voyage aboard the Beagle. [31] Fitzroy, Falkland Islands and Port Fitzroy, New Zealand are also named after him.

The World War II Captain class frigate HMS Fitzroy (K553) was named after him, as was the weather ship Admiral Fitzroy (formerly HMS Amberley Castle). In 2010 New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) named its new IBM supercomputer "FitzRoy" in honour of him. [32]

On 4 February 2002, when the shipping forecast sea area Finisterre was renamed to avoid confusion with the (smaller) French and Spanish forecast area of the same name, the new name chosen by the UK's Meteorological Office was "FitzRoy", in honour of their founder.

FitzRoy has been commemorated by the Fitzroy Building at the University of Plymouth, used by the School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Science.

There is blue plaque on FitzRoy's house at 38 Onslow Square, London. [33]

Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy was commemorated on two stamps issued by the Royal Mail for the Falkland Islands and St Helena.

Fitzroy Island in Queensland, Australia, is named after FitzRoy, [34] as are the Fitzroy River and subsequently Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia.

In fiction

The BBC made a BAFTA award-winning television series in 1978 titled The Voyage of Charles Darwin where Captain Robert Fitzroy was played by actor Andrew Burt with Malcolm Stoddard as Darwin with a storyline that followed the historic interaction between Darwin and FizRoy before and after their time together on HMS Beagle. [35]

In 1997, the play FitzRoy by Juliet Aykroyd was first performed at the University of Reading. [36] It has since been performed under the title The Ostrich and the Dolphin [37] – alluding to Darwin's rhea and the dusky dolphin, named Delphinus fitzroyi by Darwin – before being published as Darwin & FitzRoy in October 2013. [38]

A novel by Argentinian writer, Sylvia Iparraguirre, entitled Tierra del Fuego, was published in 2000. It retells the story of Fitzroy's experiment with "civilizing" the Yamaná from the perspective of a fictional narrator, British-Argentinian Jack Guevarra. The novel received the Sor Juana de la Cruz prize and was translated into English by Hardie St. Martin.

A novel entitled This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson was published in 2005 (it was published in the U.S. in 2006 under the title To the Edge of the World). The novel's plot followed the lives of FitzRoy, Darwin and others connected with the Beagle expeditions, following them between the years of 1828 and 1865. It was a nominee on the long list for the 2005 Man Booker Prize [39] (although Thompson died in November 2005).

The novel Darwin's Dreams by Sean Hoade was published in 2008 and republished in a new edition in 2016. The novel begins with the first meeting of Darwin and FitzRoy and ends with Darwin receiving notice of FitzRoy's suicide. The plot is interlaced with fictional "dreams" that imagine how the world would be if the ideas of evolutionary thinkers over the millennia had been literally true. The dreams also show how Darwin's subconscious dealt with major themes in his life such as the death of his beloved daughter Annie and his lifelong friendship and rivalry with FitzRoy. [40]

The play Darwins Kapten was published by Henning Mankell in 2009, and had its world premiere in 2010 at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. It is about Darwin and his journey on the Beagle: many years after the five-year long voyage, Darwin receives a message that his captain on the ship, FitzRoy, has committed suicide. The play portrays the reception of Darwin's discoveries, as well as the consequences of taking a stand against existing ideas in a world that is built on belief in God as the only creator of life. [41]

See also

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The Darwin Sound is an expanse of seawater which forms a westward continuation of the Beagle Channel and links it to the Pacific Ocean at Londonderry Island and Stewart Island, not far from the southern tip of South America. It thus forms a navigable link across Tierra del Fuego between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as an alternative to going round the hazardous rocky headland of Cape Horn.

Second voyage of HMS <i>Beagle</i> exploration associated with theory of evolution

The second voyage of HMS Beagle, from 27 December 1831 to 2 October 1836, was the second survey expedition of HMS Beagle, under captain Robert FitzRoy who had taken over command of the ship on its first voyage after the previous captain committed suicide. FitzRoy had already thought of the advantages of having an expert in geology on board, and sought a gentleman naturalist to accompany them as a supernumerary. The young graduate Charles Darwin had hoped to see the tropics before becoming a parson, and accepted the opportunity. He was greatly influenced by reading Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology during the voyage. By the end of the expedition, Darwin had already made his name as a geologist and fossil collector, and the publication of his journal which became known as The Voyage of the Beagle gave him wide renown as a writer.

Syms Covington English sailor

Syms Covington (1816–1861) was a fiddler and cabin boy on HMS Beagle who became an assistant to Charles Darwin and was appointed as his personal servant in 1833, continuing in Darwin's service after the voyage until 1839. Originally named Simon Covington, he was born in Bedford, Bedfordshire, England, the youngest child of Simon Covington V and Elizabeth Brown. After Covington's trip on the Beagle, he then emigrated to Australia and settled as a postmaster, marrying Eliza Twyford there.

Fitzroy, Falkland Islands settlement on East Falkland

Fitzroy is a settlement on East Falkland. It is divided into Fitzroy North and Fitzroy South by a tidal river called Fitzroy River that is fed from a lake on the east side of Mount Whickham. The river was forded by Charles Darwin when he visited for a second time in 1834.

<i>Cherokee</i>-class brig-sloop ship class

The Cherokee class was a class of brig-sloops of the Royal Navy, mounting 10 guns. Brig-sloops are sloops-of-war with two masts rather than the three masts of ship sloops. Orders for 115 vessels were placed, including 5 which were cancelled and 6 for which the orders were replaced by ones for equivalent steam-powered paddle vessels.

<i>The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs</i> book by Charles Darwin

The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs, Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. Fitzroy, R.N. during the years 1832 to 1836, was published in 1842 as Charles Darwin's first monograph, and set out his theory of the formation of coral reefs and atolls. He conceived of the idea during the voyage of the Beagle while still in South America, before he had seen a coral island, and wrote it out as HMS Beagle crossed the Pacific Ocean, completing his draft by November 1835. At the time there was great scientific interest in the way that coral reefs formed, and Captain Robert FitzRoy's orders from the Admiralty included the investigation of an atoll as an important scientific aim of the voyage. FitzRoy chose to survey the Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean. The results supported Darwin's theory that the various types of coral reefs and atolls could be explained by uplift and subsidence of vast areas of the Earth's crust under the oceans.

1835 Concepción earthquake 1835 earthquake in South America

The 1835 Concepción earthquake occurred near the neighboring cities of Concepción and Talcahuano in Chile on 20 February at 11:30 local time and has an estimated magnitude of 8.2 Ms  or 8.1 ML. The earthquake triggered a tsunami which caused the destruction of Talcahuano. A total of at least 50 people died from the effects of the earthquake and the tsunami. The earthquake caused damage from San Fernando in the north to Osorno in the south. It was felt over a still wider area from Copiapó in the north to the island of Chiloe in the south and as far west as the Juan Fernández Islands.

Ships chronometer from HMS <i>Beagle</i>

A nautical chronometer made by Thomas Earnshaw (1749–1828), and once part of the equipment of HMS Beagle, the ship that carried Charles Darwin on his voyage around the world, is held in the British Museum. The chronometer was the subject of one episode of the BBC's series A History of the World in 100 Objects.

Robert Atherton Edwin, was a noted meteorologist and weather forecaster who was instrumental in the establishment of the New Zealand Meteorological Office.

Pringle Stokes was a British naval officer who served in HMS Owen Glendower on a voyage around Cape Horn to the Pacific coast of South America, and on the West African coast fighting the slave trade. He then commanded HMS Beagle on its first voyage of exploration in the south Atlantic. After two years in command of the Beagle, depressed by the harsh winter conditions of the Strait of Magellan, he committed suicide.

<i>This Thing of Darkness</i> debut novel of Harry Thompson

This Thing of Darkness was the debut novel of Harry Thompson, published in 2005 only months before his death in November of that year at the age of 45. Set in the period from 1828 to 1865, it is a historical novel telling the fictionalised biography of Robert FitzRoy, who was given command of HMS Beagle halfway through her first voyage. He subsequently captained her during the vessel’s famous second voyage, on which Charles Darwin travelled as his companion. The novel was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Its title comes from Prospero's line "This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine" in Act V, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.


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