Mark Beaufoy FRS (1764–1827) was an English astronomer and
physicist, mountaineer, explorer and British Army officer. His
Mark Beaufoy (1718–1782), who was originally from Evesham,
established a vinegar factory in Lambeth, London. According to the
family tree on Ancestry.com, he was born 1764 March 4, died 1827 May
He was the first-known English climber to make an ascent of a high
mountain in the Alps. In 1787, he made an ascent (the fourth) of Mont
Blanc. This mountain was an attraction to his fellow countrymen, such
as J. D. Forbes (1809–1868),
A. T. Malkin (1803–1888), John Ball
(1818–1889) and Sir
Alfred Wills (1828–1912). He describes his
ascent of Mont Blanc:
"At last, however, but with a sort of apathy which scarcely admitted
the sense of joy, we reached the summit of the mountain; when six of
my guides, and with them my servant, threw themselves on their faces
and were immediately asleep. I envied them their repose; but my
anxiety to obtain a good observation for the latitude, subdued my
wishes for indulgence."
He devoted much of his life to naval experiments at the Greenland Dock
with James Scott and Captain John Luard of the "Society for the
Improvement in Naval Architecture". He published the results of his
work in one of the leading scientific journals of the day, The Annals
of Philosophy. In 1815 he described a recording tide meter, and in the
same article went on to describe the power of the wind on square sails
and the resistance to motion both in air and water of different
shapes. The paper moved from ship sails to considering the best
angle for windmill sails to be set. He supplied Astronomical and
Magnetic observations from
Hackney Wick (51°32‘40“N, 6.82“W)
for many issues. Charles Hutton's 1815 list of England's most
notable private observatories included
In 1816 Beaufoy published another extensive article based on his
experimental work. On the Stability of Vessels was based on 23
different hull forms tested for their resistance to rolling. The
article includes an illustration of his apparatus showing a hull form
being subjected to a controlled heeling force with a plumb bob and
scale to measure the inclination. The various tables of results show
the metacentre. The dichotomy between resistance to rolling and sea
keeping is discussed.
A volume Nautical and Hydraulic Experiments with Numerous Scientific
Miscellanies was published posthumously by his son Henry in 1834 (one
volume only, called Volume I). Beaufoy also made astronomical
observations and advocated other ideas like rifles in the militia and
schemes for reaching the North Pole. This volume challenged the
existing orthodoxy that the resistance to motion of a vessel was in
proportion to her displacement. Chapman had challenged this earlier
(1775), but Beaufoy's work was taken up by
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel as
the "square-cube" law. Simply put, if a vessel is doubled in size the
resistance to motion quadruples, but the size of engines and the
carrying capacity (fuel, cargo) increase eight-fold.
He married his cousin Margaretta Beaufoy (died 1800) in a 1784
"runaway" marriage, after which they had a "long sojurn" in
Switzerland. They had three sons (Henry, Mark and George) and a
daughter; Margaretta took the infant girl Henriette to watch Mark
ascend Mont Blanc. She assisted him with mathematical and astronomical
Beaufoy was commissioned Captain of the Hackney Volunteer Company in
Colonel of the 1st Regiment of Tower Hamlets Militia in 1797.
However, in October 1813 he was court-martialled for the "vexatious
and frivolous" disciplining of a junior officer and was relieved of
his command in January 1814.
His grandson, Mark Hanbury Beaufoy, was an English vinegar
manufacturer and politician. The family firm is now called British
^ McConnell 2008.
^ Beaufoy 1815.
^ Beaufoy 1815, p. 279.
^ See for example Beaufoy 1815, p. 293
^ Hutton 1815.
^ Beaufoy 1816.
^ Garrison 1998, p. 188.
^ Major & Murden 2017.
Beaufoy, Mark (October 1815), Thomson, Thomas, ed., "Description of an
Instrument to measure and register the Rise and Fall of the Tide
throughout the whole Flow and Ebb", Annals of Philosophy, London:
Robert Baldwin, VI (XXXIV), pp 273 – 281, retrieved 24 December
Beaufoy, Mark (March 1816), Thomson, Thomas, ed., "On the Stability of
Vessels", Annals of Philosophy, London: Robert Baldwin, VII (XXXIX),
pp 184 – 204, retrieved 28 December 2014
Beaufoy, Mark (1834), Beaufoy, Henry, ed., Nautical and Hydraulic
Experiments, with numerous Scientific Miscellanies, I, South Lambeth,
Surrey, UK: Privately published by the editor, retrieved 26 December
2014 Only the first of a planned three volumes was published
Clerke, Agnes Mar (1885). "Beaufoy, Mark". In Stephen, Leslie.
Dictionary of National Biography. 04. London: Smith, Elder &
Garrison, Ervan G. (1998), History of Engineering and Technology:
Artful Methods (2nd ed.), CRC Press, ISBN 9780849398100
Hutton, Charles (1815), "English observatories (private)", A
Philosophical and Mathematical Dictionary, vol. 2, p. 129,
retrieved 9 Jan 2018
Kerr, Barbara (1974), The Dispossessed: An Aspect of Victorian Social
History, London: John Baker, ISBN 0-212-97008-9 discusses
the related Thornhill & Beaufoy families and the social changes in
Victorian England following the industrial revolution.
McConnell, Anita (Jan 2008) . "Beaufoy, Mark (1764–1827)".
Dictionary of National Biography
Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford
University Press. (Subscription or UK public library membership
Major, Joanne; Murden, Sarah (27 November 2017), A Georgian heroine:
the intriguing life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, Pen &
Sword History, ISBN 9781473863460
ISNI: 0000 0000 7357 257X