FitzRoy, Robert

FitzRoy, Robert, 1805–65, British naval officer, meteorologist, and hydrologist. Given (1829) temporary command of the HMS Beagle, he completed a survey of the coasts of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego and the Straits of Magellan. Reappointed (1831) commander of the Beagle, he set off on a five-year journey with the naturalist Charles Darwin that surveyed Cape Horn, the South American coast, the Galápagos Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. In 1839 the three-volume narrative of the Beagle's voyages was published; FitzRoy was the main author and editor of the first two volumes, and Darwin was responsible for the third, which became known as The Voyage of the Beagle. FitzRoy became a Tory member of parliament for Durham (1841), and then governor of New Zealand (1843–45), where he was sympathetic to the Maori and alienated British settlers. Retiring from active service in 1850 for health reasons, he nonetheless was promoted to rear admiral (1857) and vice admiral (1863). From 1854 he devoted himself to nautical meteorology for the Board of Trade, inventing a barometer and devising a storm warning system for ships that was a precursor to the modern science of weather forecasting. During a bout of severe depression, he took his own life.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: British and Irish History: Biographies