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Robert Were Fox the Younger

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Subject: Fox family of Falmouth, Robert Were Fox, Charles Fox (scientist), Mineralization (geology), Robert Hunt (scientist)
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Robert Were Fox the Younger

Robert Were Fox the Younger
Born 26 April 1789
Died 25 July 1877
Nationality British
Fields Mining, geology, geophysics
Known for Geophysical measurements
Magnetic dip compass

Robert Were Fox FRS (26 April 1789 – 25 July 1877) was a British geologist, natural philosopher and inventor. He is known mainly for his work on the temperature of the earth and his construction of a compass to measure magnetic dip at sea.[1]


  • Life and family 1
  • Business interests 2
  • Horticultural interests 3
  • Scientific work 4
  • Honours and activities 5
  • Selected writings 6
  • Notes and references 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Life and family

Robert Were Fox the Younger was born on 26 April 1789 at George Fox who had introduced the community into the county.

In 1814, Fox the Younger married Maria Barclay (1785 – 1858), daughter of Robert and Rachel Barclay of Bury Hill,[3][4] near Dorking, Surrey. Maria's sister, Lucy, married Fox's cousin, George Croker Fox (1784–1850).

Robert Were Fox the Younger and his wife had three children, Anna Maria (1816 – 1897), Barclay (1817 – 1855) and Caroline (1819 – 1871). Both Caroline and Barclay Fox's journals have been published.

Robert Were Fox the Younger died on 25 July 1877 and was buried at the Quaker Burial Ground at Budock.[5]

Business interests

Fox was involved in many aspects of his family's businesses, along with several of his brothers. He also served as Honorary Consul of the U.S.A in Falmouth from 1819 to 1854.

Fox and Joel Lean were granted a patent in 1812 for their modifications of steam engines.[6]

Horticultural interests

Fox's gardens at Rosehill[7] and Penjerrick, near Falmouth, became noted for the number of exotic plants which he and his son, Barclay, had naturalized.

Scientific work

Experimental apparatus of Fox[8]

Fox's work was in what today would be referred to as geophysics. He was distinguished for his researches on the internal temperature of the earth, contributing papers to the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall,[9] and being the first to prove that temperature definitely increases with depth (the geothermal gradient), his observations being conducted in Cornish mines from 1815 for a period of forty years.[10] In 1829 he began a set of experiments on the artificial production of miniature metalliferous veins by means of the long-continued influence of electric currents, and his main results were published in 1836.[11]

In 1834 Fox constructed an improved form of deflector dipping needle compass, or dip circle, for polar navigation.[12] One was used by Sir James Clark Ross on his Antarctic expedition and used to discover the position of the South magnetic pole.[13]

He was a key person in the development of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society and its promotion of scientific research and training. He was an active member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Robert Were Fox, his cousin, George Croker Fox (1784–1850) and brother, Alfred Fox, assembled excellent collections of minerals, which are now in the British Museum (Natural History), given by Arthur Russell.[14]

Honours and activities

The Society owns a collection of letters addressed to Fox and his family.[16]

Selected writings

The following is a very incomplete list of Fox's writings. According to the Dictionary of National Biography (1889), Fox authored 52 scientific papers.[17]

  • A Catalogue of the Works of Robert Were Fox, F.R.S., with a Sketch of his Life (1878), by J. H. Collins, Truro, Lake & Lake.

Notes and references

  1. ^ The main source for this article is ODNB entry: Denise Crook, ‘Fox, Robert Were (1789–1877)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 13 June 2006. The first edition of this text is available as an article on Wikisource:  
  2. ^ Fox and his father (1754-1818) had the same name. The father also merited an entry in ODNB: Philip Payton, ‘Fox, Robert Were (1754 – 1818)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 13 June 2006.
  3. ^ “Barclay, Perkins & Co”, unsigned article in Westcott Local History Group Annual Report for 2004, pp.17 – 22. This article tells the history of the family of Robert Barclay (1751 – 1830), the Anchor Brewery, Southwark, which brought them wealth and their home, Bury Hill, Westcott, a village to the West of Dorking.
  4. ^ Information on Bury Hill, Maria Fox's parental home.
  5. ^ R. W. Fox was buried at the Quaker Burial Ground, Budock, along with his daughters, Anna Maria and Caroline, according to a Burial Plan at the Cornwall Record Office. However, no gravestones for them remain: the Burial Ground was vandalised in the 1970s and many gravestones broken.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Sandra & George Pritchard's Fox Rosehill Garden website (accessed 9 December 2007). The Fox Rosehill Gardens and Penjerrick are now both open to the public.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Denise Crook, ‘Fox, Robert Were (1789–1877)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 15 Nov 2007
  10. ^ Mining History Site places Fox in his context.]
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Dipping Needle" in A New and Universal Dictionary of the Marine by William Falconer, improved and modernised by William Burney; T. Cadell & William Davey and John Murray, 1830: Pages 122, 123 and Plate IX, Figure 11, the dip of a needle is defined as
    "a certain property which all needles possess when rubbed with a lodestone of inclining the north end below the level of the horizon: this property found to increase in going northward."
  13. ^ Archives of Natural History
  14. ^ Mineralogy references: Embery, P.G. and Symes, R.F. (1987) Minerals of Cornwall and Devon, British Museum (Natural History), ISBN Hardback 0-565-01046-8 Paperback 0-565-00989-3.
  15. ^ Lists of Royal Society Fellows 1660-2007
  16. ^ See this listing of archives
  17. ^  

Further reading

Letter 1108 (page 518) is from Fox to Faraday in 1838, describing some of Fox's experiments.

External links

  • Image of R W Fox Dip circle at the Science Museum
  • Description of the Fox dip circle - The Encyclopædia Britannica (1888). 9th edition, New York, volume 16, page 161.
  • Biographical information - The Encyclopædia Britannica (1910). 11th edition, New York, volume 10, pages 767 – 768.
  • - Dedicated to Robert Were Fox the Younger

  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
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