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Blog post from Thursday, 23 July, 2015

On this day, 23rd July 1773 , Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, was born.

The Australian city, Brisbane on the Brisbane River, is named after him.

Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane was born in Scotland on 23 July 1773. He was educated in astronomy and mathematics at the University of Edinburgh. From 1793 to 1814 he served in the army, rising to the rank of brigadier general.

In 1821 he was appointed Governor of New South Wales. During his tenure (1821-25), he built an astronomical observatory at Parramatta and worked to develop the “Brisbane Catalogue” of 7,385 stars. Also while Governor, Brisbane encouraged the development of the agricultural industry in the colony, supported by land reclamation, exploration, and immigration, and he called for greater accountability of settlers with land grants to best utilise their land, and to take on convicts as assistants. His administration had a positive effect on the morality of the colony, as the number of persons convicted at the criminal court fell from 208 in 1822 to 100 in 1824. This enabled NSW to be transformed from a dependent convict outpost into a free, self-supporting colony.

The name of the city of Brisbane, now the capital of the state of Queensland, was derived from the Brisbane River, which was was named in December 1823 by John Oxley, Surveyor-General and explorer, in honour of Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane.

The State Library of New South Wales holds the Brisbane family papers, 1715-1870 MLMSS 1191 and many portraits including:

Portrait of Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, 1842 / engraved by Frederick Bromley, painted by Robert Frain

[Portrait of Brisbane, 1826? / after Earle]