Brisbane, Thomas Makdougall- (DNB00)
BRISBANE, Sir THOMAS MAKDOUGALL- (1773–1860), general, colonial governor, and astronomer, was the eldest son of Thomas Brisbane of that ilk, and was born at Brisbane House, Largs in Ayrshire, on 23 July 1773. His father had served at Culloden, and died in 1812, aged 92. His mother was Eleanor, daughter of Sir W. Bruce of Stenhouse. After spending some time at Edinburgh University, where he showed his taste for mathematics and astronomy, he was sent to an academy in Kensington, was gazetted an ensign in the 38th regiment in 1789, and joined it in Ireland in 1790, where he struck up an acquaintance with Arthur Wellesley, then aide-de-camp to the lord-lieutenant, which lasted all their lives. He was promoted lieutenant in 1792, and captain, at the age of twenty, in 1793, into the 53rd regiment, with which he served through the campaign of 1793-5 in Flanders under the Duke of York. He was wounded in the attack on the camp of Famars, on 18 May 1793, and yet was present at the capture of Valenciennes, the battles before Dunkirk, at Nieuwpoort, and Nimeguen, and was often engaged in the disastrous winter retreat to Bremen. He was promoted major in the 53rd on 5 Aug 1795, and in October of the same year accompanied his regiment to the West Indies in Sir Ralph Abercromby's expedition. He was present at the capture of the Morne Chalot and the Morne Fortunée in St. Lucia, at St Vincent, Trinidad, Porto Rico, and San Domingo, and returned home for his health in 1798. Nevertheless he had to return to Jamaica in 1800, when he was gazetted lieutenant-colonel in the 69th regiment, but had to come home again in 1803. In 1805 the 69th was ordered to India, but Colonel Brisbane's health was not strong enough for a further residence in a hot country, and he reluctantly went on half-pay, and devoted himself to astronomy in the new observatory which he built at Brisbane.
He still hoped for active service, and, on his promotion as colonel in 1810, accepted the post of assistant adjutant-general. In 1812 his old friend Arthur Wellesley, then the Marquis of Wellington, asked for his services, and he was made brigadier-general, and ordered to the Peninsula. He joined the army in the winter of 1812, and was posted to the command of the 1st brigade of the 3rd or fighting division, commanded by Picton. With Picton's division he was present at the battles of Vittoria, the Pyrenees, the Nivelle, the Nive, Orthez, and Toulouse, and was mentioned in despatches for his services at the last of these battles, where he was wounded. He had so thoroughly established Ids reputation in the south of France, that the Duke of Wellington recommended him for a command in America, and Major-general Brisbane, as he had become in 1813, accompanied his Peninsular veterans to Canada, and commanded them at the battle of Plattsburg. This command lost him the opportunity of being present at Waterloo, but he commanded a brigade in the army of occupation in France, and for some time the second division there. His services were also rewarded by his being made a K.C.B. with the other Peninsular generals in 1814, on the extension of the order of the Bath. On the withdrawal of the army of occupation he returned to Scotland.
In 1821 he was appointed governor of New South Wales, and his short government there marks an era of importance in the history of Australia, for it was during his term of office that emigration commenced. The first free emigrants were Michael Henderson and William Howe, who had gone out in 1818, during the government of General Macquarie. That governor, whom Brisbane succeeded on 1 Dec. 1821, had administered his government with larger views than the four naval captains who had preceded him, and who had been little more than superintendents of the convict establishment, but he held that Australia was intended for the 'emancipists,' or ticket-of-leave men, and rather discouraged immigration. Brisbane, on the contrary, unwisely threw all power into the hands of the immigrants, many of whom were mere adventurers. He found a colony of 23,000 inhabitants, and left 36,000, many of them free immigrants, with capital and a disposition to work. He introduced the cultivation of the vine, the sugar-cane, and the tobacco plant, and encouraged horse-breeding, and he took a particular interest in exploring the island. Under his auspices Mr. Oxley explored the coast to the northward of Sydney for a new penal settlement, and discovered the river to which he gave the name of Brisbane, and on which now stands the city of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. But Brisbane was, according to Dr. Lang, 'a man of the best intentions, but disinclined to business, and deficient in energy' (Lang, History of New South Wales, 1st ed. i. 149), and he allowed the most terrible confusion to grow up in the finances of the colony. The colonial revenue consisted chiefly of the subsidy of 200,000l. a year paid by the government for the support of the convicts, and the corn for the colony had to be imported from India. This gave plenty of room for gambling, and by injudicious interference with the currency the finances got into such confusion, that speculators made large fortunes, and the government was often on the point of bankruptcy. The emancipists declared that all this gambling had been caused by the governor's favouritism ; and though there is no ground for imputing wilful complicity to him, there is no doubt that the adventurers about him made use of their influence for their own advantage. The home government was at last obliged to take notice of these complaints, and on 1 Dec. 1825, after exactly four years in the colony, he left for England, after weakly accepting a public dinner from the leading emancipists. On reaching England he was made colonel of the 34th regiment in 1826, and retired to Scotland, where he occupied himself with his observatory and his astronomical invesigations.
Brisbane's innate scientific tastes had received their confirmed bent towards astronomy from a narrow escape of shipwreck, owing to an error in taking the longitude during his voyage to the West Indies in 1795. He thereupon procured books and instruments, and made himself so rapidly and completely master of nautical astronomy, that on his return to Europe he was able to work the ship's way, and in sailing from Port Jackson to Cape Horn in 1825 predicted within a few minutes the time of making land, after a run of 8,000 miles. His observatory at Brisbane was the only one then in Scotland, except that on Garnet Hill at Glasgow. In equipment it was by far foremost, possessing a 4½-foot transit and altitude-and-azimuth instrument, both by Troughton, besides a mural circle and equatorial. With these Brisbane worked personally, and became skilled in their use.
During his Peninsular campaigns he took regular observations with a pocket-sextant, and, as the Duke of Wellington said, 'kept the time of the army.' While sheathing his sword on the evening of the battle of Vittoria he exclaimed, looking round from a lofty eminence, 'Ah, what a glorious place for an observatory!' In 1816 he was unanimously elected a corresponding member of the Paris Institute, in acknowledgment of his having ordered off a detachment of the allies reported as threatening its premises ; and in 1818 the Duke of Wellington caused some tables, computed by him for determining apparent time from the altitudes of the heavenly bodies, to be printed at the headquarters, and by the press of the army - probably a unique example of military publication. His first communication to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which had admitted him a member in 1811, was on the same subject. It was entitled 'A Method of determining the Time with Accuracy from a Series of Altitudes of the Sun taken on the same side of the Meridian' (Trans. R. Soc. Edin. viii. 497) ; and was succeeded in 1819 and 1820 by memoirs 'On the Repeating Circle,' and on a 'Method of determining the Latitude by a Sextant or Circle, with simplicity and accuracy, from Circum-meridian observations taken at Noon' (ib. ix. 97, 227).
On his appointment as governor of New South Wales in 1821, he immediately procured a valuable outfit of astronomical instruments by Troughton and Reichenbach, and engaged two skilled observers in Messrs. Rümker and Dunlop for the service of the first efficient Australian observatory. The site chosen was at Paramatta, fifteen miles from Sydney, and the building was completed (at his sole cost) and opened for regular work 2 May 1822. Before eight months had elapsed most of Lacaille's 10,000 stars had been, for the first time, reviewed (chiefly by Rümker) ; Encke's comet had been recaptured by Dunlop 2 June 1822, on its first predicted return, a signal service to cometary astronomy ; besides careful observations by Brisbane himself of the winter solstice of 1822, and the transit of Mercury, 3 Nov. 1822 (Trans. R. Soc. Edin. x. 112). A considerable instalment of results was printed at the expense of the colonial department, and formed part iii. of the 'Philosophical Transactions' for 1829, but the great mass was digested into a star-catalogue by Mr. William Richardson, of the Greenwich observatory, and printed in 1835, by command of the lords of the admiralty, with the title 'A Catalogue of 7,385 Stars, chiefly in the Southern Hemisphere, prepared from Observations made 1822-6 at the Observatory at Paramatta.' The value of this collection, known as the 'Brisbane Catalogue,' was unfortunately impaired by instrumental defects. For these services Brisbane received the gold medal of the Astronomical Society, in delivering which, 8 Feb. 1828, Sir John Herschel dwelt eloquently upon his 'noble and disinterested example,' and termed him 'the founder of Australian science' (Mem. Roy. Astron. Soc. iii. 399). His observations with an invariable pendulum in New South Wales were discussed by Captain Kater in the 'Philosophical Transactions' for 1823. The Paramatta observatory was, soon after Brisbane's departure from the colony in 1825, transferred to the government; it was demolished in 1855, and an obelisk erected in 1880 to mark the site of the transit instrument.After leaving New South Wales Brisbane devoted himself to scientific and philanthropic retirement, first at his seat of Makerstoun, near Kelso, and latterly at Brisbane House. Severe domestic afflictions visited him. By his marriage in 1819 with Anna Maria, heiress of Sir Henry Hay Makdougall, whose name he took in addition to his own in 1826, he had two sons and two daughters ; all at various ages died before him. Nevertheless, he did not yield to despondency. Shortly after his return to Scotland he built and equipped at large cost (for the equatorial alone he paid Troughton upwards of 600l.) an observatory at Makerstoun - the third of his foundation - and took a personal share in the observations made there down to about 1847 (Mem. Roy. Astron. Soc. v. 349 ; Monthly Notices, vii. 156, 167). To his initiative it was due that Scotland shared in the world-wide effort for the elucidation of the problems of terrestrial magnetism set an foot by Humboldt in 1837. He founded at Makerstoun in 1841 the first magnetic observatory north of the Tweed; and his discernment in entrusting its direction to John Allan Broun, and generous co-operation with his extended views, raised the establishment to a position of primary importance. The results, published at his and the Edinburgh Royal Society's joint expense (Trans. R. Soc. Edin. xvii.-xix. with suppl. to xxii.), formed the most valuable fruits of his enlightened patronage of science, and were rewarded with the Keith medal in 1848. This was the latest of his public honours. His membership of the Royal Society of London dated from 1810. He early entered the Astronomical Society, and was chosen one of its vice-presidents in 1827; honorary degrees were conferred on him at Edinburgh, Oxford, and Cambridge in 1824, 1832, and 1833 respectively; he was an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy, and acted as president of the British Association at its Edinburgh meeting in 1834. In 1833 he succeeded Sir Walter Scott as president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, an office which he retained till his death. He entrusted the society with the endowment of a medal, known as the 'Brisbane Biennial,' for the encouragement of scientific study, and he endowed another medal, to be awarded by the Scottish Society of Arts. He was created a baronet in 1836, and made G.C.B. in 1837. He became lieutenant-general in 1829, and general in 1841. His zeal for education took effect in his endowment of the Brisbane Academy at Largs. Everywhere his professions ripened into acts worthy of his character as a Christian and a gentleman. His death occurred 27 Jan. 1860, in the same room where he had been born eighty-seven years previously.
[Bryson's Memoir in Trans. R. Soc. Edin. xxii. 589; Proc. R. Soc. xi. iii.; Monthly Notices, xxi. 98; Fraser's Genealogical Table of Sir T. M. Brisbane, Edinburgh, 1840; R. Soc. Cat. Sc. Papers, vol. i.; Gent. Mag. 1860, pt. i. 298; Royal Military Calendar; Lang's Hist, of New South Wales; Braim's Hist. of New South Wales to 1846.]