Admiral William Henry Smyth (1788-1865) was one of the most talented naval officers of the post-Napoleonic era, a hydrographer of the greatest ability and one of the founding fathers of the Royal Geographical Society in 1830.
Born in Westminster in 1788 and a descendant of Captain John Smith, the colonizer of Virginia in the Americas, young Smyth entered the Navy in March 1805 when the vessel in which he was already serving, the East India Company's frigate Cornwallis, was purchased for the fleet. Although not involved in any of the larger actions of the War, he was nevertheless continuously employed in numerous operations including the expedition to the Scheldt in 1809, the defence of Cadiz, 1810-11 (for which he was commissioned Lieutenant) and the political machinations surrounding the removal of Joachim Murat, Napoleon's puppet King of Naples and Sicily, all the while making hydrographic surveys wherever he went.
Promoted Commander in September 1815, just after the end of the War, Smyth continued his work in the Mediterranean and, in 1817, was appointed to complete the 'grand survey' of the shores of the Adriatic begun by Napoleon. By now a prominent member of the European scientific community, his published surveys brought acclaim from every quarter and he was promoted Captain in 1824. Feted by innumerable institutions, he was one of the founders of the Royal Geographical Society, a prolific author and one of the most widely respected 'men of science' of his day. Retiring from the Navy in 1846, he died a full Admiral in 1865.