Authorised form of nameStanley; Owen (1811 - 1850)
Dates1811 - 1850
Date of birth13 June 1811
Place of deathSydney, Australia
Date of death13 March 1850
Royal Naval College (entered 1824)
Embarked as a volunteer aboard Druid frigate stationed in the Channel (1826); became midshipman in the Ganges and spent the next four years on the coast of South America, serving chiefly in small ships on surveying work; employed under Phillip Parker King in the sloop Adventure on a survey of the Straits of Magellan; served in the Mediterranean Station under Sir John Franklin for five years (1831); joined the Arctic expedition which left the Orkneys in June 1836, in charge of astronomical and magnetic observations during the Polar expedition in the "Terror" (1836-1837); died in the arms of Thomas Huxley (FRS 1851); was given a state funeral

As a lieutenant at 26 he received his first independent command, the brig Britomart, in which he sailed in 1838 for the East Indies Station and Australasian waters, chiefly on surveying work; When the expedition to establish a northern colony at Port Essington sailed in September 1838, the Britomart accompanied it, Stanley being made a magistrate and a commissioner of crown lands for the purpose. He visited the new colony again in 1841, and described the settlement in November as 'all well, and on the best possible terms with the Natives', and its commandant, Captain John Macarthur, as the victim of official incompetence and naval interference. Stanley was not solely engaged upon surveying work, however, for his duties took him in 1840 to New Zealand where, under the orders of Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson, he was sent in July to the Banks Peninsula where French emigrants were expected to form a settlement upon land bought by Captain Langlois from the Maoris of Akaroa. Stanley, taking with him a police magistrate to station there, preceded the French arrival and succeeded in establishing good relations with the French commandant, Lavaud, who saluted the British flag. For his behaviour in a delicate situation Stanley was highly commended by the Admiralty, having already been promoted commander in April 1839.

In 1841 Stanley was at Singapore on his way to the fighting in Burma and thence returned to England, where in 1844 be achieved post rank as captain and two years later received command of another surveying ship, Rattlesnake, destined for the East Indies Station. In December 1846 he was ordered from England to Australia to survey the region of Hervey Bay in a new project for establishing a colony in that part of North Australia. This plan was abandoned, but Stanley sailed from England, taking with him the naturalists, Thomas Huxley and John MacGillivray, under orders to survey New Guinea waters. November 1847 found him on the Australian coast at Port Curtis, surveying the harbour which he thought a very good anchorage, before setting out in the next year northward to New Guinea. In June 1848 he offered protection and assistance to the ship which carried Edmund Kennedy's expedition to Cape York and then proceeded to the Louisiade Islands off south-east New Guinea to make a survey of the archipelago. Upon this mission which lasted throughout 1849 he contracted an illness of which he died in Sydney in March 1850.

Stanley's achievement was principally scientific. Made a fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Society for his surveying and observation work, he charted considerable sections of the north-east Australian coast, made a track of the Arafura Sea, and charted the channels and islands of south-east New Guinea. He was admired as a careful and competent seaman by MacGillivray and was a warm friend of Sir John Franklin, but he was condemned by Huxley for cowardice because of his reluctance to land on New Guinea shores for fear of conflict with the natives; however, Huxley was angry not to be able to collect specimens ashore and made no allowance for the disease with which Stanley was then afflicted. His work is commemorated in the name of the Owen Stanley Range in New Guinea.

Membership categoryFellow
Date of election03/03/1842
RelationshipsEldest son of Edward Stanley Bishop of Norwich (FRS 1840); nephew of John Thomas Stanley (FRS 1790); elder brother of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (FRS 1863)
Bulloch's Roll
R W Home, 'The Royal Society and the Empire: the colonial and Commonwealth Fellowship. Part 2. After 1847' in NR 2003 vol 57 pp 47-84
'E Norwich' is Edward Stanley, Bishop of Norwich (1837-1849)
Royal Society codeNA7539
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
MS/710/109Letter from [Owen] Stanley to [Robert Were] Fox nd [1831?]
MS/710/110Letter from Owen Stanley, HMS Rattlesnake, Simon's Bay, to [Robert Were] Fox6 April 1847
EC/1842/11Stanley, Owen: certificate of election to the Royal Society
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