Beaufort, Sir Francis, K. C.B., Admiral, was born at Navan in 1774. He entered the navy in 1787, and soon rose by his bravery and talent in the services on which he was engaged under Lord Howe and others, and was appointed Lieutenant in 1796. He greatly distinguished himself while Lieutenant of the Phaeton in 1800, by cutting out a Spanish vessel, the San Josef, from under the guns of a battery near Malaga. For this service he received a commander’s commission. Disabled by wounds, and forced to remain at home from November 1803 to June 1804, he devoted his time, in conjunction with his brother-in-law, Richard L. Edgeworth, to the construction of a telegraph from Dublin to Galway. Francis Beaufort had a lifelong keen awareness of the value of accurate charts for those risking the seas, having been shipwrecked himself at age fifteen due to a faulty chart, and his life’s biggest accomplishments were in nautical charting. Gazetted anew, and after seeing more service in South America, off Spain, and in the Levant, he was paid off in 1812. During these early years of command, Beaufort developed the first versions of his Wind Force Scale and Weather Notation coding, which he was to use in his journals for the remainder of his life. From the circle representing a weather station, a staff (rather like the stem of a note in musical notation) extends, with one or more half or whole barbs. For example, a stave with 3½ barbs represents Beaufort seven on the scale, decoded as 32–38 mph, or a “Fresh Gale”. Beaufort didn’t really invent something new here; rather, he eventually succeeded in getting others to adopt it as a standard when there was no existing standard. or eight years, Beaufort directed the Arctic Council during its search for the explorer, Sir John Franklin, lost in his last polar voyage to search for the legendary Northwest Passage.
As a council member of the Royal Society, the Royal Observatory, and the Royal Geographic Society (which he helped found), Beaufort used his position and prestige as a top administrator to act as a “middleman” for many scientists of his time. Beaufort represented the geographers, astronomers, oceanographers, geodesists, and meteorologists to that government agency, the Hydrographic Office, which could support their research.
Having given much attention to coast surveys, he received the appointment of Hydrographer to the Admiralty, and in 1846 attained the rank of Admiral. His second wife was a daughter, by a third marriage, of his brother-in-law, Mr. Edgeworth; he was consequently uncle and brother-in-law to Maria Edgeworth. He died at Brighton, 16th December 1857.