Robert Fitzroy

Alternative Name(s)
  • Robert Fitz-Roy
  • Robert FitzRoy
Date 1804 - 1865
Biographical NotesHydrographer and Meterologist. Son of Lord Charles FitzRoy (1764–1829, himself son of Augustus Henry, third duke of Grafton), and Lady Frances Anne Stewart (d. 1810, herself eldest daughter of the first marquess of Londonderry). Following his education at the Royal Naval College, Robert FitzRoy pursued a prominent naval career in the Mediterranean and South America, including captaining the Beagle during one of Darwin's voyages. Fitzroy's achievements as a surveyor were widely recognized, including by a medal from the Royal Geographical Society.

In 1841 he became a member of parliament for co. Durham. In 1843 he was appointed governor of New Zealand but was dismissed after only two years after clashing with the settlers over Maori rights and his financial decisions. In 1848 FitzRoy was appointed superintendent of the Woolwich Dockyard, but in 1850 he retired from active service.

The newly established Board of Trade established appointed FitzRoy as meteorological statist in 1854. His experiments with Barometers lead to the invention of ‘Fitzroy barometers’, manufactured after his death, and still in use into the 20th century. He was also the first to coin the term 'forecast', and to create a system to predict the weather, and notably storms. The results of this work were published in his 'Weather Book' (1863). However, the Board of Trade decided that he had exceeded his remit and canceled the forecasts. Fitzroy became increasingly despondent and in 1865 committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor.
Work(s)Author of Hints to Travellers (1854) in The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London