Authorised form of nameHolman; James (1786 - 1857)
Dates1786 - 1857
Dates and placesBirth:
Fore Street, Exeter, Devon, England (15 October 1786)
His lodgings near the Minories, London (28 or 29 July 1857)
Highgate Cemetery, London
Son of a Chymist and Surgeon'. In 1798, at age 12, entered the Royal Navy as a volunteer first class, the entry level for future officers; Lieutenant (1807); became blind (at age 25). Gained appointment as a Knight of Windsor in order not to be a burden on his family, his main requirement being to attend religious functions. Sought and obtained permission to travel as a palliative to his ailments. Holman crafted a cane which was metal tipped, and which he held like a paint brush, so he could tap his way through foreign lands. Circumnavigated the globe, visiting Siberia, Tasmania and previously unexplored areas of the African interior. He rode on horseback and walked; he sailed on merchant ships and rode on rudimentary, horse-drawn carts. Holman's accounts of his trips made him a popular author in England, although he was attacked by John Dundas Cochrane, the Pedestrian Traveller whose books did not sell so well in comparison. His most remarkabel achievement was his first attempt to circumnavigate the world by journeying east from England across Europe to Russia and Siberia. Eventually stopped by Russian authorities.
Royal Society activityMembership:
Election Date:
Bulloch's Roll; DNB
Boase gives death date as 28 July 1786
Roberts, James 'A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveller' (2006)
Royal Society codeNA7499
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
P/0069Portrait of Holman, James
IM/Maull/002184Holman, Jamesnd
IM/002185Holman, Jamesnd
IM/002186Holman, Jamesnd
NLB/16/897Copy letter from Robert William Frederick Harrison, to H Wilson Holman, 92 Billiter Buildings, E.C.29 June 1898
EC/1825/19Holman, James: certificate of election to the Royal Society
Add to My Items

    Collection highlights

    Browse the records of some of our collections, which cover all branches of science and date from the 12th century onwards. These include the published works of Fellows of the Royal Society, personal papers of eminent scientists, letters and manuscripts sent to the Society or presented at meetings, and administrative records documenting the Society's activities since our foundation in 1660.

    The Royal Society

    The Royal Society is a Fellowship of many of
    the world's most eminent scientists and is the
    oldest scientific academy in continuous existence.
    Registered charity number 207043

    Website design ©CalmView


    + 44 207 451 2500
    (Lines open Mon-Fri, 9:00-17:00. Excludes bank holidays)

    6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG

    Email Us →


    Subscribe to our newsletters to be updated with the
    latest news on innovation, events, articles and reports.

    Subscribe →

    © CalmView