Frederick William Beechey

Birth: 1796


Frederick William Beechey (1796-1856) was a British rear-admiral and geographer. He was born the son of Sir William Beechey, R.A., was born on 17 Feb. 1796, and entered the navy in July 1806 under the direct patronage of Lord St. Vincent, and afterwards of Sir Sidney Smith. During the years of his early service in the Channel, on the coast of Portugal and on the East India station, the naval war had almost burnt itself out; and the only occasion in which he was actually engaged with the enemy was when, as midshipman of the Astraea under Captain Schomberg, he was present at the capture of the Clorinde and Nereide on the coast of Madagascar, 20-25 May 1811.

In 1814 he was appointed to the Tonnant, of 80 guns, which carried the flag of Sir Alexander Cochrane, the commander-in-chief in North America, and had a part in the boat operation, 8 Jan. 1815, on the Lower Mississippi. For this service he was promoted to be lieutenant on 10 March following, but remained on the North American station till after the peace. On 14 Jan. 1818 he was appointed to the Trent, hired brig, commanded by Lieutenant (afterwards Sir John) Franklin, and had an interesting share in the Arctic expedition of that year, of which he afterwards published an account under the title 'Voyage of Discovery towards the North Pole, performed in his Majesty's ships Dorothea and Trent, under the command of Captain Dayid Buchan' (8vo, 1843).

In the next year, 1819, he served again in the Arctic, on board the Hecla, under Lieutenant William Edward Parry during that remarkable voyage, the account of which was afterwards written by Mr. Parry himself (4to, 1821). In January 1821 Beechey was appointed to the Adventure sloop, under Captain William Henry Smyth, and during the next two years was employed on the survey of the north coast of Africa, some account of which he afterwards published (in conjunction with his brother, Henry William Beechey), under the title 'Proceedings of the Expedition to explore the Northern Coast of Africa from Tripoli Eastward, in 1821-2' (4to, 1828).

On 25 Jan. 1822 he had been promoted to the rank of commander, and in January 1825 he was appointed to command the Blossom, which was engaged for the next four years in the Pacific, and in endeavoring to co-operate, by Behring's Straits, with the polar expeditions from the eastward. His narrative of this voyage was published by authority of the admiralty in 1831 (2 vols, 8vo). On his return from this expedition he married (December 1828) Charlotte, daughter of Lieutenant-colonel Stapleton, of Thorpe Lee, and having been, whilst still in the Pacific, advanced to the rank of captain (8 May 1827), he now remained for some years on shore.

In September 1835 he was appointed to the Sulphur, for the survey of part of the coast of South America; but his health failing, he was compelled to come home in the autumn of 1836. In the following year he was appointed to the survey of the coast of Ireland, and, in different steam-vessels, continued on that duty for the next ten years (1837-47). From this time he lived chiefly in London, engaged in scientific work, and occasionally contributing papers to the Royal and other societies, of which he was a fellow. In 1855 he was elected president of the Royal Geographical Society, an office which he still held at his death, on 29 Nov. 1856.

Besides the works already named, he was the author of two Reports of Observations on the Tides in the Irish Sea and English Channel (Phil. Trans. 1848, pp. 105-16, 1851, pp. 703-18), of the Presidential Address to the Royal Geographical Society 1856, and of some minor papers.

[O'Byrne's Nav. Biog. Dict; Gent. Mag. 1857. i. 108.]


John Knox Laughton, Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 04. pgs. 121-122.

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