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Famous British personalities

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Horatio Nelson, Viscount Nelson

(1758 - 1805)
Profession: Statesman
British naval commander

Nelson was born in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, on September 29, 1758

Nelson's services to the British nation were contributed in the course of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Nelson was made a commodore in 1796. During the Battle of the Nile, on August 1-2, 1798, he destroyed most of the French vessels; the victory cut Napoleon's line of communication with France and eventually was responsible for his withdrawal from the Middle East in spite of his military victories there. In 1801 Nelson became a vice

Nelson was in England at the time of the Treaty of Amiens (1802-03), which temporarily ended the fighting between England and France. When war broke out again in 1803 he was appointed commander of the British Mediterranean fleet. In the Battle of Trafalgar, on October 21, 1805, Nelson overwhelmingly defeated the combined French and Spanish fleets, leading the attack himself in his flagship Victory. The British victory put an end to Napoleon's plans for invading England.

Nelson is regarded as the most famous of all British naval leaders and as one of the most noteworthy in world history. He was buried in Saint Paul's Cathedral. In November 1805, in recognition of his services, his brother William Nelson was made Earl Nelson of Trafalgar. In 1849 a monument known as the Nelson Column was erected to Admiral Nelson in Trafalgar Square, London.

John Rennie

(1761 - 1821)
Profession: Engineer
Born in East Linton, Scotland. After working as a millwright with Andrew Meikle he studied at Edinburgh University (1780-83). He was employed by Boulton & Watt for five years but in 1791 he moved to London where he started his own engineering company. Over the next few years he became a famous bridge-builder. This included Leeds Bridge, Southwark Bridge and Waterloo Bridge.

Rennie was also responsible for designing and building docks at Hull, Liverpool, Greenock and Leith and improving the harbours and dockyards at Portsmouth, Chatham and Plymouth. Rennie's last project was London Bridge but it was unfinished when he died in 1821. The bridge was completed by his son, John Rennie

Sir Alexander Mackenzie

(1764 - 1820)
Profession: Explorer
British explorer and fur trader.

Sir Alexander MacKenzie (1764 - March 11, 1820) was a Scottish-Canadian explorer.

MacKenzie was born in Stornoway on the isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. In 1774 his family moved to New York, and then to Montreal in 1776 during the American Revolution. In 1779 he obtained a job with the North West Company, on whose behalf he travelled to Lake Athabasca and founded Fort Chipewyan in 1788. He was sent to replace Peter Pond, a partner in the North West Company. From Pond he learned that the First Nations people understood that the local rivers flowed to the northwest. Acting on this information he set out by canoe and discovered the MacKenzie River on July 10, 1789, following it to its mouth in the hope of finding the uried in Avoch, on the Black Isle, Ross and Cromarty. Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean. Although he ended up discovering the Arctic Ocean, he named the river "Disappointment River" as it did not lead to Cook Inlet in Alaska as he had expected. The river was later renamed in his honour..

In 1791 he travelled to the United Kingdom to study the new advances in the measurement of longitude. Upon his return in 1792 he set out once again to find a route to the Pacific, and in 1793 he became the first European to cross North America, crossing both the Continental Divide and the Rocky Mountains. He found the upper reaches of the Fraser River and following its course, reached the Pacific coast of Canada on July 20 of that year, completing the first recorded transcontinental crossing north of Mexico. He arrived at Bella Coola, British Columbia, where he first reached saltwater at South Bentinck Arm, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. He had wanted to continue westward out of an apparent desire to encounter the open Ocean, but was turned back by the hostility of the Nuxalk nation, who were suspicious of Europeans, after negative encounters with marine fur traders. At his westernmost point, (July 22nd, 1793), hemmed in by Nuxalk war canoes, he enscribed "Alex Mackenzie from Canada by land 22nd July 1793" on a rock using a reddish paint made of vermilion and bear grease, and turned around to return to "Canada". The rock, near the water's edge, still bears his words, which were permanently inscribed later by surveyors. The site is now a provincial park.

He was knighted for his efforts in 1802, and served in the legislature of Lower Canada from 1804 to 1808. In 1812, he married and returned to Scotland. Mackenzie died in 1820 of Bright's disease.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

(1769 - 1852)
Profession: Statesman
British general and prime minister (1828-30 and 1834)

Wellesley was born in Dublin, Ireland on May 1, 1769. He was commissioned as ensign in the British army in 1787 and was elected to the Irish parliament in 1790. In 1796 Wellesley, now holding the rank of colonel in the army, went to India, where he subsequently received his first independent command. Arthur took part in several military campaigns; in the Battle of Assaye in 1803, he subdued the Marathas, then the dominant people of India. Returning to England in 1805 he was rewarded with a knighthood and with election to the British Parliament.

Wellesley was involved in the struggle against Napoleon. He took part in military campaigns against France and its allies in Hannover (1805-6) and in Denmark (1807). In 1808 he was given command of the British expeditionary forces in Portugal, where in 1810 he first made use of his famous military tactic known as the scorched-earth policy, laying waste to the countryside behind him as he and his troops moved on. In the ensuing Peninsular War (1808-14), which resulted in the expulsion of Napoleon's armies from Portugal and Spain, Wellesley's troops won a series of victories, especially at Talavera de la Reina (1809), Salamanca (1812), Vitoria (1813), and Toulouse (1814). His success in Spain won him many honors and large estates and cash awards. In 1814 he was created 1st duke of Wellington.

On June 18, 1815, Wellington, with the help of the Prussians decisively defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo

William Wordsworth

(1770 - 1850)
Profession: Writer

English poet, one of the most accomplished and influential of England's romantic poets, whose theories and style created a new tradition in poetry.

Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770, in Cockermouth, Cumberland, and educated at Saint John's College, University of Cambridge. He developed a keen love of nature as a youth, and during school vacation periods he frequently visited places noted for their scenic beauty. Although Wordsworth had begun to write poetry while still a schoolboy, none of his poems was published until 1793, when An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches appeared. These works, although fresh and original in content, reflect the influence of the formal style of 18th-century English poetry.

His work is generally taken to mark the beginning of the romantic movement in English poetry.

In 1813 Wordsworth obtained a sinecure as distributor of stamps for Westmorland.

Much of Wordsworth's easy flow of conversational blank verse has true lyrical power and grace, and his finest work is permeated by a sense of the human relationship to external nature that is religious in its scope and intensity

Richard Trevithick

(1771 - 1833)
Profession: Engineer
British mechanical engineer and inventor, and one of the pioneers of railroad locomotion. Trevithick was born in Illogan, near Camborne-Redruth. In 1796 he exhibited models of high-pressure, noncondensing steam engines, which were an improvement on the low-pressure engines developed by the Scottish inventor James Watt. On Christmas Eve, 1801, Trevithick put into operation the first steam-propelled vehicle ever to carry passengers. In 1804 he made the first application of steam to the hauling of loads on a railway when his steam locomotive carried ten tons of iron about 15 km (about 9.5 mi), from Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon. His success led to the construction of further steam locomotives operating on rails. He is considered by many the real inventor of the locomotive steam engine.

Sir George Cayley

(1773 - 1857)
Profession: Scientist
He is recognized as the founder of aerodynamics on the basis of his pioneering experiments and studies of the principles of flight.

He experimented with wing design, distinguished between lift and drag, formulated the concepts of vertical tail surfaces, steering rudders, rear elevators, and air screws, and built the world's first glider capable of carrying a human (1853). Cayley was also a founder of the Regent Street Polytechnic, London. It is generally accepted that the airplane was invented by Sir George Cayley in 1799 at Brompton, near Scarborough in Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. In 1909 Wilbur Wright himself paid Cayley the following tribute:

"About 100 years ago, an Englishman … carried the science of flight to a point which it had never reached before and which it scarcely reached again during the last century."

Joseph Mallord William Turner

(1775 - 1851)
Profession: Artist
English painter

The most original landscape artist of his day, he is one of England's greatest painters. His landscapes became increasingly Romantic, with the subject often transformed in scale and flooded with brilliant, hazy light. Many later works anticipate Impressionism, for example Rain, Steam and Speed 1844 (National Gallery, London).

Turner travelled extensively in France, Switzerland, Italy, and the Rhineland as well as in Britain, constantly recording the effects of sea, sky, mountain, and plain in watercolour. He continued to produce series of watercolour studies, which were issued as engravings, throughout his life
By the 1800s he had begun to paint landscapes in the `Grand Manner´, and having mastered a range of styles, Turner evolved one distinctively his own in which his highly individual use of colour and his increasingly free brushwork allow him to capture both the subtlest effects of light and atmosphere and also the most violent forces of nature.

Examples of his major works include Shipwreck 1805, Snowstorm: Hannibal Crossing the Alps 1812, and Destruction of Sodom 1805 (all Tate Gallery, London); Rain, Steam and Speed; and The Slave Ship 1839 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts).

Turner was born in London. His general education was limited, but early experience as a copyist in the house of the art collector Thomas Monro enlarged his view of painting and drawing. In 1789 he entered the Royal Academy schools. He began as a topographical watercolourist, and first exhibited in oils 1796. He became professor of perspective at the Royal Academy from 1807 and deputy president 1845.

In his old age he lived as a recluse in Chelsea, London, under an assumed name. He died there, leaving to the nation more than 300 paintings, nearly 20,000 watercolours, and over 19,000 drawings.

Jane Austen

(1775 - 1817)
Profession: Writer
English novelist

The daughter of a clergyman, she spent the first 25 years of her life at “Steventon,” her father's Hampshire vicarage. Here her first novels, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey, were written, although they were not published until much later. On her father's retirement in 1801, the family moved to Bath for several years and then to Southampton, settling finally at Chawton Cottage, near Alton, Hampshire, which was Jane's home for the rest of her life. Northanger Abbey, a satire on the Gothic romance, was sold to a publisher for £10 in 1803, but as it was not published, was bought back by members of the family and was finally issued posthumously.

The novels published in Austen's lifetime were Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1816). Persuasion was issued in 1818 with Northanger Abbey. The author's name did not appear on any of her title pages, and although her own friends knew of her authorship, she received little public recognition in her lifetime. Jane Austen's novels are comedies of manners that depict the self-contained world of provincial ladies and gentlemen.

Most of her works revolve around the delicate business of providing husbands for marriageable daughters. She is particularly noted for her vivid delineations and lively interplay of character, her superb sense of comic irony, and her moral firmness. She ridicules the silly, the affected, and the stupid, ranging in her satire from light portraiture in her early works to more scornful exposures in her later novels. Her writing was subjected to the most careful polishing. She was quite aware of her special excellences and limitations, comparing herself to a miniaturist. Today she is regarded as one of the great masters of the English novel. Her minor works include her Juvenilia, the novel Lady Susan, and the fragments The Watsons and Sanditon.

John Constable

(1776 - 1837)
Profession: Artist
English painter

He was a master of landscape painting in the romantic style. His works, done directly from nature, influenced French painters of the Barbizon School and the impressionist movement.

Constable was born June 11, 1776, in East Bergholt, Suffolk. He worked in his father's flour mill before going to London in 1799 to study at the Royal Academy schools. He exhibited his first landscape paintings in 1802 and thereafter studied painting and English rural life on his own, developing a distinctly individual style. His paintings, executed entirely in the open air rather than in a studio, as was customary, were an innovation in English art.
He became a member of the Royal Academy in 1829

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