Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 48.djvu/20

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Rennell
Rennell
14

edited by the Rev. Daniel Macarthy under the title of ‘Collections of Irish Church History,’ Dublin, 1861–74, 4to. The rest of his library was sold by auction on his death (cf. Bibliotheca Renehaniana in Brit. Mus.). He was the author of ‘Requiem Office’ and a ‘Choir Manual of Sacred Music,’ in addition to a short ‘History of Music,’ Dublin, 1858, 8vo.

[Gent. Mag. 1857, ii. 383; preface to Collections for Irish Church History; Freeman's Journal, 28 July 1857.]

E. I. C.

RENNELL, JAMES (1742–1830), geographer, born in 1742, was son of John Rennell, captain in the royal artillery, by Anne Clarke of Chudleigh in Devonshire. Losing both parents when quite a boy, the one killed in battle, the other making a poor second marriage, young Rennell found a guardian, who remained a true friend through life, in the Rev. Gilbert Burrington, vicar of Chudleigh. Rennell entered the navy in 1756, at the age of fourteen, and was present at the disastrous action of St. Cast on the coast of Brittany. In 1760 he went out to the East Indian station, and served in the Grafton under Captain Hyde Parker (1714–1782) [q. v.] during the three following years, when he saw some active service, including a cutting-out expedition at Pondicherry. He soon mastered the theory and practice of marine surveying, and, on account of his proficiency in this regard, Parker lent his services to the East India Company. He served for a year on board one of the company's ships bound to the Philippine Islands, with the object of establishing new branches of trade with the natives of the intervening places. During this cruise Rennell drew several charts and plans of harbours, some of which have been engraved by Dalrymple.

At the end of the seven years' war there appeared to be no chance of promotion for a youth without interest. So, acting upon his captain's advice, Rennell obtained his discharge from the navy at Madras, and applied for employment in the East India Company's sea service. He at once received command of a vessel of two hundred tons; but she was destroyed by a hurricane in Madras roads in March 1763, with all hands. Fortunately, her captain was on shore, and he was at once appointed to command a small yacht called the Neptune, in which he executed surveys of the Palk Strait and Pamben Channel. His next cruise was to Bengal, and he arrived at Calcutta at the time when Governor Vansittart was anxious to initiate a survey of the British territory. Owing to the friendship of an old messmate, who had become the governor's secretary, Rennell was appointed surveyor-general of the East India Company's dominions in Bengal, with a commission in the Bengal engineers, dated 9 April 1764. He was only twenty-one years of age when he met with this extraordinary piece of good fortune.

Rennell's survey of Bengal, which was commenced in the autumn of 1764, was the first ever prepared. The headquarters of the surveyor-general were at Dacca, and in the successive working seasons he gradually completed his difficult, laborious, and dangerous task. In 1776, when on the frontier of Bhutam, his party was attacked by some Sanashi fakirs, and Rennell himself was desperately wounded. He never entirely recovered from the effects of his injuries, and was thenceforth less able to withstand the effects of the climate. He received the rank of major of Bengal engineers on 5 April 1776, and retired from active service in 1777, after having been engaged on the survey for thirteen years. The government of Warren Hastings granted him a pension, which the East India Company somewhat tardily confirmed. The remainder of Rennell's long life was devoted to the study of geography. His ‘Bengal Atlas’ was published in 1779, and was a work of the first importance for strategical as well as administrative purposes. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1781, and took up his residence in Suffolk Street, near Portland Place, where his house became a place of meeting for travellers from all parts of the world. His second great work was the construction of the first approximately correct map of India. It was accompanied by a memoir containing a full account of the plan on which the map was executed, and of his authorities. The first edition was published in 1783; the third, with both map and memoir considerably enlarged, in 1793. In 1791 Rennell received the Copley medal of the Royal Society; and from this time he was frequently consulted by the East India Company on geographical questions. After the completion of the map of India, Rennell gave his attention to comparative geography, and conceived a comprehensive scheme for a great work on western Asia. His geography of Herodotus, which occupied him during many years, only formed a part of his whole project. It was published in two volumes, a monument of laborious research and acute and lucid criticism. Sir Edward Bunbury recorded his opinion that Rennell's ‘Herodotus’ remains of the greatest value. In 1814 Rennell published his ‘Observations on the Topography of the Plain