Catalogue description FitzRoy Papers

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Details of BJ 7
Reference: BJ 7
Title: FitzRoy Papers

Official and scientific papers of Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy.

Apart from one box of semi-official correspondence dated 1843-1857 from Admiral C R Moorsom, this series relates entirely to FitzRoy's career after 1854. It includes weather charts and reports of collected scientific observations on meteorology and hydrography by FitzRoy and others; memoranda to his secretary Henry Babbington on synoptic and wind charts; and administrative records of the Meteorological Department, including minutes to the Board of Trade on the finances of the department.

Correspondence in BJ 7 which is annotated 'Ent[ered]' or 'Sc.R/Reg.' indicates that it was entered in the registers generally or, specifically, in the register of foreign or scientific letters: BJ 9/12

Date: 1843-1881
Related material:

A series of official reports to the Board of Trade made by FitzRoy from 1857 to 1865 does not appear to have survived in manuscript. The printed reports can however be traced among parliamentary papers.

For meteorological charts prepared by FitzRoy relating to the storm of 1859 in which the Royal Charter was wrecked, see BJ 6

For registers to original correspondence and drafts which can be found in the collection of FitzRoy papers, see BJ 9

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Robert FitzRoy, 1805-1865

Physical description: 1070 file(s)
Access conditions: Open
Accruals: No further accruals are expected.
Publication note:

BJ 7/59-1070 were originally described as part of a catalogue entitled 'Origins of Meteorology' (1996), a copy of which can be found in The National Archives' library. Edited versions of descriptions from the 'Origins of Meteorology' have been used in this catalogue.

Administrative / biographical background:

Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy, hydrographer and meteorologist, was the Conservative MP for Durham from 1841 to 1843, and then Governor and Commander-in-Chief of New Zealand from 1843 to 1845. FitzRoy's earlier career included being appointed captain of HMS Beagle (during Charles Darwin's famous voyage in the 1830s). His subsequent career included a spell as Superintendent of Woolwich dockyard, Kent, from 1848 to 1849, and commander of the frigate HMS Arrogant (1849-1850), before he retired from active service in 1850. In 1851 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and acted for a few months as Private Secretary to his uncle Lord Hardinge, then Commander-in-Chief of the Army.

In 1854 he was appointed Superintendent of the newly created Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade. His greatest achievement in this office was to collect synchronous weather reports from around the coasts of Great Britain, using the newly invented electric telegraph. From these reports FitzRoy compiled the first weather forecasts. He also instituted a system of storm warnings, developed a simplified barometer and in 1862 published a Weather Book as a layman's guide to climatic conditions. He was also Secretary to the Lifeboat Association. In 1865, FitzRoy committed suicide under the strain of overwork.

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