Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How to spell FitzRoy... or is it Fitzroy?

Robert FitzRoy was the Captain of the Beagle that took Darwin around the world on one of the most famous voyages ever. But beyond a famous ship captain, he later became the father of modern marine weather. He invented the concept of forecast, was a champion of the use of barometers, and was the first head of what is now called the UK Met Office.

Indeed, the address of the Met Office in England is:

     Met Office
     FitzRoy Road
     Devon, EX1 3PB
     United Kingdom

Which brings us to the point at hand. Note the unusual spelling of his name with a capital R. This is the most common way we see his name in print. But periodically one sees it without this embellishment of the capital R, so I often wondered what was right.

Recently with occasion to browse through old logbooks–we all get our kicks in different ways–I ran across the answer to this question.

Check out the bottom right of this logbook page from the Beagle. You will see his own signature in the style that he at least chose to use in signing his name.   That is certainly an important data point in this esoteric study.

In 1830, time of this log entry on the Beagle,  he was 25 years old, and had been Captain of the Beagle for barely 2 years. Maybe he changed his mind on this as he got more famous. The  Darwin voyage started the following year, and ended sometime 1836.

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