Colonel Mark Beaufoy FRS (1764–1827) was an English astronomer and physicist, mountaineer, explorer and British Army officer. His father, Mark Beaufoy (1718–1782), who was originally from Evesham, established a vinegar factory in Lambeth, London.
He was the first-known English climber to make an ascent of a high mountain in the Alps. In 1787, he made an ascent (the fourth) of Mont Blanc. This mountain was an attraction to his fellow countrymen, such as J. D. Forbes (1809–1868), A.T. Malkin (1803–1888), John Ball (1818–1889) and Sir Alfred Wills (1828–1912). He describes his ascent of Mont Blanc:
- "At last, however, but with a sort of apathy which scarcely admitted the sense of joy, we reached the summit of the mountain; when six of my guides, and with them my servant, threw themselves on their faces and were immediately asleep. I envied them their repose; but my anxiety to obtain a good observation for the latitude, subdued my wishes for indulgence."
He devoted much of his life to naval experiments at the Greenland Dock with James Scott and Captain John Luard of the "Society for the Improvement in Naval Architecture"; a volume Nautical and Hydraulic Experiments with Numerous Scientific Miscellanies was published by his son Henry in 1834 (one volume only, called Volume I). He also made astronomical observations and advocated other ideas like rifles in the militia and schemes for reaching the North Pole.
He married his cousin Margaretta Beaufoy (died 1800) in a 1784 "runaway" marriage, after which they had a "long sojurn" in Switzerland. They had three sons (Henry, Mark and George) and a daughter; Margaretta took the infant girl Henriette to watch Mark ascend Mont Blanc. She assisted him with mathematical and astronomical calculations.
Beaufoy was commissioned Captain of the Hackney Volunteer Company in 1794 and Colonel of the 1st Regiment of Tower Hamlets Militia in 1797. However, in October 1813 he was court-martialled for the "vexatious and frivolous" disciplining of a junior officer and was relieved of his command in January 1814.
His grandson, Mark Hanbury Beaufoy, was an English vinegar manufacturer and politician. The family firm is now called British Vinegars Limited.
- Anita McConnell, ‘Beaufoy, Mark (1764–1827)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- The Dispossessed: An Aspect of Victorian Social History by Barbara Kerr (1974, John Baker, London) ISBN 0-212-97008-9 discusses the related Thornhill & Beaufoy families and the social changes in Victorian England following the industrial revolution.