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British Industrial History

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Thomas Brisbane

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Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane (1773–1860), colonial governor and astronomer

1773 born at Brisbane House, Largs, Ayrshire

Educated at home, then at the University of Edinburgh, after which he and his brother boarded at the technical school of Robert Thomson in Kensington.

1798 on the way back from Jamaica his ship was nearly shipwrecked due to the captain's miscalculation leading Brisbane to improve his understanding of navigation

1808 he built Brisbane Observatory, a stone structure some distance from Brisbane House in Largs. It had three clocks, several instruments by Troughton, including his 2 foot mural circle, the first of its kind, and which served as the model for the 6 foot circle installed at Greenwich Observatory. Brisbane rose daily at first light to make observations

1810 Member of the Royal Society

1820 After an extensive military career, on the Duke of Wellington's advice, Brisbane was appointed Governor of New South Wales and the dependent territory of Van Diemen's Land.

He took his Troughton transit and mural circle with him and installed them in an observatory built at his expense, pending the arrival of new instruments; he also employed Karl Rümker and James Dunlop as his assistants.

Published the so-called "Brisbane Star Catalogue", of many thousands of stars, but its effect was lessened by errors due to instrumental defects

1826 returned to Britain as colonel of the 34th foot

1826 Built an observatory at Makerstoun and installed a Troughton transit and an equatorial by Troughton and Simms.

1828 received the gold medal of the Astronomical Society.

1833 he succeeded Sir Walter Scott as president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

1841 When the British government agreed to take part in Gauss's Geomagnetic Union, which brought many countries together for co-ordinated observations throughout one year, Brisbane built and fitted out a magnetic observatory adjacent to his personal observatory.

He employed a series of assistants, including James Dunlop, John Allan Broun, later director of Trivandrum Observatory, John Welsh, later superintendent of Kew Observatory, and Alexander Hogg

1848 Awarded the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Keith medal

1860 Died at Brisbane House

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