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Thomas Mackdougall Brisbane

1773 – 1860

Thomas Mackdougall Brisbane (1773-1860) was born into an aristocratic Scottish family and entered the army at the age of 16. Brisbane served in Britain, Europe and the West Indies, achieving the rank of Brigadier-General in 1812 and receiving a knighthood in 1817. On the advice of his friend the Duke of Wellington, Brisbane was appointed to be the sixth Governor of New South Wales, taking up this post when Lachlan Macquarie's term finished in late 1821. Like that of his predecessors, Brisbane's administration was much occupied by land and convict matters and with managing the conflicting interests of emancipists and wealthy colonists. Brisbane introduced economic and currency reforms, established a supreme court, opposed censorship of the press, and as the first patron of the New South Wales Agricultural Society oversaw experiments with crops such as tobacco, cotton, coffee and flax. Elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1812, Brisbane was a keen astronomer and during his term as governor established an observatory in the grounds of Old Government House at Parramatta. Wanting to be associated with the furtherance of science in the colony, he left a collection of instruments and his scientific library when he was recalled from office in 1825. He continued his scientific work after his return to Scotland, ultimately cataloguing over 7000 stars. He died at his ancestral home, Brisbane House, in Scotland in January 1860.

Updated 2018