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Sir Francis Ronalds

Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

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Joined the family firm of cheesemongers at fifteen. Always interested in experimenting with electrical and scientific apparatus, by 1816 he had created a primitive electric telegraph that sent messages through eight miles of wire in his garden. He offered it to the Admiralty, but was declined. In 1818 he left England for a tour of Europe and the Mediterranean and began collecting books on electricity and magnetism. He was appointed Director of the Kew Meteorological Observatory in 1843, where he devised a system of registering meteorological data. He spent the last years of his life adding to his library on electricity, magnetism and the electric telegraph, collecting over 1,500 books and 5,000 pamphlets.

National Portrait Gallery, London





oil on canvas


H 61.6 x W 50.8 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Given by Hugh Carter, 1897

Work type



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National Portrait Gallery, London

St Martin’s Place, London, Greater London WC2H 0HE England

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