Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane

1773 - 1860

Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane

Soldier and astronomer. Born in Brisbane House near Largs (North Ayrshire), Brisbane was educated at the University of Edinburgh. He joined the army in 1789, rising to the rank of general by 1841. He served as the Governor-General of the Australian colony of New South-Wales (1821-5), during which time he set up an agricultural college and conducted experiments in growing coffee, cotton, flax, sugar-cane, tobacco and grape-vines.

An enthusiastic astronomer, he built an observatory next to his family home in Ayrshire. He also set up the first observatory in Australia, next to Government House at Parramatta, and catalogued more than 7000 stars in the Southern skies. He returned to Scotland, living principally at Makerstoun in the Scottish Borders, where he built a well-equipped observatory. He was also involved with the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh.

Brisbane was elected President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1833, succeeding Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832), and won the Society's Keith Prize in 1848 for his magnetic observations. He was awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh in 1834 and created a baronet in 1836.

He died at Brisbane House and the city of Brisbane is named after him. He also founded two gold medals, one awarded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the other by the Scottish Society of Arts.

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