Authorised form of namePovey; Thomas (c1613 - c1705); colonial entrepreneur and administrator
Datesc1613 - c1705
Date of birthc. 1613
OccupationLawyer; politician; merchant; colonial administrator
Gray's Inn (admitted 1633)
Author of the Civil War pamphlet 'The Moderator, Expecting Sudden Peace of Certaine Ruine' (1643); MP for Liskeard, Cornwall (1646); helped in the fitting out of the Western Design Fleet (1654) used for an English expedition against the Spanish West Indies during the 1654 to 1660 Anglo-Spanish War; Council of Trade (1655, 1660); Chairman and Secretary of the Council for America (1657); Member of the Council for the Colonies (1657); MP for Bossiney (1659); Treasurer to the Duke of York (1660-1666); Secretary on the Committee for Foreign Plantations (1661); Receiver-General for the rents and revenues of the plantations in Africa and America (1661); Treasurer and Surveyor-General of the Victualling Department for Tangier, briefly a British-ruled colony (1662-1665); Master of Requests (1662-1685); travelled in Devon and Cornwall (1665); Recorder for Thetford; Shareholder in the Royal African Company and other colonial trading schemes including the Nova Scotia Company; had an interest in engineering and filed a patent with John Pritchard for a water-raising engine (1669)
Membership categoryOriginal Fellow
Date of election20/05/1663
Royal Society activityRoyal Society roles:
Council: 1663; 1691-1692
Committee and panels:
Mechanical Committee (1664)
Other Royal Society activityProposed Society correspondence in Africa (1661); Conducted an experiment relating to the transmutation of copper into brass (c.1665); Solicited by Henry Howard of Norfolk (FRS 1666) to contribute to the establishment of a building for the Society (1668)
RelationshipsParents: Justinian Povey
Married: Mary Adderly
Additional relatives: cousin of Thomas Povey, Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, and of Sir John Povey, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
General contextPovey was a shareholder in The Royal Adventurers into Africa, later Royal African Company (RAC). The RAC was a British trading company established by Royal Charter in 1660 which enslaved and sold African people. The company was chartered by Charles II, the founding royal Patron of the Royal Society, which was also chartered in 1660. The RAC was made up of and funded by members of the Stuart royal family and London merchants many of whom were, or went on to become, Fellows of the Royal Society. The Royal Society itself held shares in the company from 1682 until 1699. The RAC held a monopoly on English trade on the west coast of Africa. The principal interest of the company was originally gold and secondarily other natural resources. The Company's second charter in 1663 mentions trade in enslaved people, who were mainly sold into slavery on British owned estates in the West Indies and America. The Jesus College Cambridge Legacy of Slavery Working Party has stated that the RAC was responsible for selling more Africans into slavery in America than any other institution in the history of the Atlantic slave trade, and that they ran a brutal regime with the full knowledge of their investors. The company became insolvent in 1708, it survived until 1752 when its assets were transferred to the new African Company of Merchants, which lasted until 1821.

As a member of the Council for Foreign Plantations, within the Board of Trade government body, Povey worked to further the government's colonial interest. The Council's orders and tasks fell within a broad remit and included finding ways in which to take and enslave people to bring to the colonies, mediating between the Royal African Company and the colonies, as well as enforcing the 'reeducation' of Native Americans and enslaved people in the colonised regions.
Bulloch's Roll; DNB
Da Costa Andrade, E N. 1963. 'Samuel Pepys and the Royal Society', in Notes and Records, vol. 18, pp. 82-93
Govier, M. 1999. 'The Royal Society, Slavery and the Island of Jamaica: 1660-1700', in Notes and Records, vol. 53, pp. 203-217
Thrower, N J W. 2003. 'Samuel Pepys FRS (1633-1733) and The Royal Society', in Notes and Records, vol. 57, pp. 3-13
The election date is Povey's re-election date into the Society after the grant of the second charter in April 1663. All Fellows admitted in a two-month window after this charter, until 22 June 1663, are considered Original Fellows. He was previously mentioned as a member on 6 February 1661.
Last in 1702 list of Fellows.
Virtual International Authority File
Royal Society codeNA5143
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
DM/5/68'Transactions of the Committee for Correspondence'19 August 1664, 23 September 1664
EL/M1/39Letter, from Alex Marshal to Mr [Thomas] Povey, dated at Castle Ashby30 November 1667
CLP/9i/42Paper, 'The method manner and order of transmutation of copper into brass' by Thomas Povey1690s
CLP/2/24Paper, 'An account of a secrett in the use of painting in answere to the commands of the Royall Societie' by Mr [Thomas] Povey[1665]
RBO/7/108'The method manner and order of the Transmutation of Copper into brass' by Thomas Poveynd
RBO/3/69'An Account Of a Secret in the Use of Painting In Answer to the Command of the Royal Society and brought in by Mr Povey'1667
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