Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fox, Charles (1797-1878)

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FOX, CHARLES (1797–1878), scientific writer, seventh son of Robert Were Fox, by Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph Tregelles of Falmouth, and younger brother of Robert Were Fox, F.R.S. [q. v.], was born at Falmouth 22 Dec. 1797, and educated at home. He became a partner in the firm of G. C. and R. W. Fox & Co., merchants and shipping agents at Falmouth, and was also a partner in the Perran Foundry Company at Perranarworthal, Cornwall, where from 1824 to 1847 he was the manager of the foundry and the engine manufactory.

He was one of the projectors and founders of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society at Falmouth in 1833, and, in conjunction with Sir Charles Lemon, led the way to a movement which resulted in the offer of a premium of 600l. for the introduction of a man-engine into Cornish mines, the result of which was the erection of the first man-engine at Tresavean mine in 1842. This machine was a great success, and its invention has been the means of saving much unnecessary labour to the tin and copper miners in ascending and descending the mine shafts. He was president of the Polytechnic Society for 1871 and 1872, in connection with which institution he founded in 1841 the Lander prizes for maps and essays on geographical districts. He was president of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall from 1864 to 1867, and president of the Miners' Association of Cornwall and Devon from 1861 to 1863. He interested himself particularly in such discoveries, philological and antiquarian, as tended to throw light on Bible history, and with this object in view he visited Palestine, Egypt, and Algiers. In all branches of natural history he was deeply read, making collections and examining with the microscope the specimens illustrative of each department.

On the introduction of boring machines into mines he was one of the first to recognise their use, and as early as 1867 he wrote papers on this subject. He made many communications to the three Cornish societies, as well as to the ‘Mining Journal’ and ‘Hardwicke's Science Gossip.’ ‘Extracts from the Spiritual Diary of John Rutty, M.D.,’ was edited by Fox in 1840, and in 1870 he wrote a small work, ‘On the Ministry of Women.’ He was largely interested in Cornish mines throughout his life, and latterly was much impoverished by the failure of the greater number of these undertakings. For the last twenty-five years of his life he resided at Trebah, near Falmouth, and died there 18 April 1878, and was buried in the Friends' cemetery at Budock 23 April. He married, 20 Dec. 1825, Sarah, only daughter of William Hustler. She was born at Apple Hall, Bradford, Yorkshire, 8 Aug. 1800, and died at Trebah 19 Feb. 1882. Her writings were: ‘A Metrical Version of the Book of Job,’ 1852–4; ‘Poems, Original and Translated,’ 1863; ‘Catch who can, or Hide and Seek, Original Double Acrostics,’ 1869; and ‘The Matterhorn Sacrifice, a Poem,’ in ‘Macmillan's Magazine,’ 1865.

[Records from Papers and Letters respecting C. Fox, Falmouth, 1878; Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, November 1878, pp. 2–3; Boase and Courtney's Bibliotheca Cornubiensis, pp. 160, 165, 1186, 1189; Joseph Foster's Descendants of Francis Fox, 1872, p. 11; Weekly Welcome, April 1878, pp. 215–16, with portrait.]

G. C. B.