Authorised form of nameReid; Sir; William (1791 - 1858); military engineer, colonial governor, and meteorologist
Dates1791 - 1858
Place of birthKinglassie, Fife, Scotland
Date of birth25 April 1791
Place of deathHis residence at 117 [now 93] Gloucester Terrace, Hyde Park, London
Date of death31 October 1858
Dates and placesMarriage: Clapham, Surrey (5 November 1818)
OccupationArmy officer
Research fieldMeteorology
ActivityEducation: Private school in Musselburgh and the Edinburgh Academy; Royal Military Academy, Woolwich (1806)

Career: Gazetted second lieutenant (1809); promoted to first lieutenant (1810); served in the British army in the Peninsular War (1810-1814) promoted to second captain (1814); served in the latter stages of the Anglo-American War (1814-1815); returned to Woolwich to become adjutant of of the Royal Sappers and Miners and in the same year accompanied the expedition against Algiers under Lord Exmouth; in the West Indies (1832-4); served with the Ordnance Survey in Ireland (1824-1827); promoted regimental first captain (1829); participated in the Carlist War (1835-6); promoted to lieutenant-colonel (1837); stationed in Portsmouth (1837-1839); became Governor of the Bermudas (1839–1846), of the British Windward Islands (1846–1848), and of Malta (1851–1858); chaired the executive committee of the Great Exhibition (1850-1851); returned to England (1858).

Memberships: Institution of Civil Engineers
CB (1838); KCB (1851)
Membership categoryFellow
Date of election21/02/1839
Age at election48
ProposerSir John Herschel
Royal Society activityRoyal Society roles:
VP 1849-1850
James Reid, Presbyterian minister of the Church of Scotland at Kinglassie, Fife, and Alexandrina, daughter of Thomas Fyers, chief engineer in Scotland.
Spouse: Sarah née Bolland, youngest daughter of John Bolland, hop merchant and Member of Parliament for Bletchley, Surrey.
Children: Grace Reid; Charlotte Cuyler Reid; Sophia Reid
Published worksRCN R60542
RCN R60540
General contextRemembered for his contribution to the intense debate on storms which dominated meteorology in the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1832–4, Reid experienced the destructive power of storms in the West Indies, particularly hurricanes. This sparked his interest in the ongoing scientific controversy surrounding storms, notably in the United States. William Redfield, a key figure in the debate, corresponded with Reid, who collected and sent data supporting Redfield's gravity and fluid tendencies theory. Reid presented Redfield's ideas at the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1838, earning acclaim. He published "Attempt to Develop the Law of Storms by Means of Facts" in the same year, rejecting theoretical positions. Reid's practical advice for ships caught in storms led to its distribution, impacting British warships and merchant mariners. In 1849, he published "Progress of the Development of the Law of Storms".

He is also remembered as a successful governor, genuinely concerned with the well-being of those he was sent to govern, affectionatelly termed the "good" governor by Bermudian historians. He advanced agriculture by introducing new crops and tillage methods, and even turning the grounds of Government House into an experimental garden, making the island a profitable supplier of early potatoes and other market crops for the United States, aided by Redfield, who provided him with seeds and equipment. He stablished the Annual Agricultural Exhibition, advocated for widespread education; founded the library; erected the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse; and championed charitable endeavours; earning praise as an indefatigable, excellent, and beloved leader.
Bulloch's Roll; DNB; 'Governor Reid and the Law of Storms' [; last accessed 29/11/2023]
Proc Roy Soc 1857-1859 vol 9 pp 543-546
Olwyn Mary Blouet, 'Sir William Reid, FRS, 1791-1858: Governor of Bermuda, Barbados and Malta' in NR 1985-86 vol 40 pp 169-191
Virtual International Authority File
Royal Society codeNA3724
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
EC/1839/12Reid, Sir William: certificate of election to the Royal Society
DM/3/117Letter from Lt Col William Reid, Royal Enginerrs, to J F W Herschel3 January 1839
MC/3/8Letter from Lieutenant Colonel [William] Reid, 5 Maddox Street, London, to the Council of the Royal Society9 February 1839
MC/3Volume 3 of miscellaneous correspondence regarding business matters, sent to the Royal Society1839-1843
MC/4/188Letter from William Reid, governor, Windward Islands, Barbados, to Charles Richard Weld, Assistant Secretary and Librarian of the Royal Society2 November 1847
MC/4Volume 4 of miscellaneous correspondence regarding business matters, sent to the Royal Society1844-1850
MC/5/36Letter from Wm [William] Reid, governor, Malta, to the Secretary of the Royal Society11 April 1852
MS/426/470Note of a letter from [the Secretaries of] the Royal Society; to Sir W [William] Reid9 June 1852
MC/5/50Letter from Wm [William] Reid, [governor of] Malta, to C R [Charles Richard] Weld, [Assistant Secretary of the Royal Society]24 July 1852
MC/5Volume 5 of miscellaneous correspondence regarding business matters, sent to the Royal Society1851-1858
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