John Walsh (scientist)

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For other men of this name, see John Walsh (disambiguation).

John Walsh (1 July 1726 – 9 March 1795) was a British scientist and Secretary to the Governor of Bengal.[1]

John was son of Joseph Walsh, Secretary to the Governor of Fort St. George and cousin to Nevil Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal, and his sister Margaret, the wife of Lord Clive.

He entered the English East India Company at the age of fifteen and eventually became Clive's private secretary.[2] During the 1757 Plassey campaign against the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj Ud Daulah, John Walsh was awarded £56,000 in prize money. Upon his return to England in 1759, his fortune was estimated at £147,000, and he quickly sought to purchase the necessary trappings of aristocratic power in eighteenth century Britain: land and political influence. In late 1764, Walsh purchased the large estate of Warfield Park, near Bracknell in Berkshire and spent the next two years doing it up.[3] He was MP for Worcester from 1761 to 1780.[4] He continued to serve Robert Clive, or 'Clive of India' as he became known, and attempted to form a parliamentary interest in his favour.

In later life, John Walsh's interests were scientific, with a particular interest in electric fish.[5][6] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1770 and awarded their Copley Medal in 1773 for a paper on the electrical properties of torpedo fish.[7][8]

Upon his death in 1795, Sir John Walsh, as he was then known, left his fortune to his niece, Margaret Walsh, and her husband, John Benn, on the condition that they change their surname to Benn-Walsh.[9] With his own fortune of £80,000 made in India while Assistant to the Resident of Benares, his brother-in-law Francis Fowke in the 1770s, John Benn-Walsh had become a very wealthy man and went on to inherit extensive estates in Warfield, Buckinghamshire, in Radnorshire, and in Ormathwaite, Cumberland and be created Baron Ormathwaite.[9]


  1. ^  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1899). "Walsh, John (1725?-1795)". Dictionary of National Biography 59. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  2. ^ "Warfield Park Case Study: Imagining Home". East India Company at Home, 1757-1857. University College London. 
  3. ^ "Warfield Park Case Study: A Country House of One’s Own". East India Company at Home, 1757-1857. University College London. 
  4. ^ Drummond, Mary M. (1964). "Walsh, John (1726-1795)". In Namier, Sir Lewis; Brooke, John. The House of Commons 1754-1790. The History of Parliament Trust. 
  5. ^ Wade, Nicholas; Piccolino, Marco; Simmons, Adrian. "John Walsh 1726–1795". Portraits of European Neuroscientists. 
  6. ^ "Copley Medal". The Royal Society. 
  7. ^ Walsh, John; Seignette, Sieu (1 January 1773). "Of the Electric Property of the Torpedo". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 63: 461–480. doi:10.1098/rstl.1773.0039. 
  8. ^ a b "Warfield Park Case Study: Rebuilding Warfield". East India Company at Home, 1757-1857. University College London. 

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Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Thomas Vernon
Henry Crabb-Boulton
Member of Parliament for Worcester
With: Henry Crabb-Boulton 1761–73
Thomas Bates Rous 1773-74
Robert Tracy 1774
Thomas Bates Rous 1774-80
Succeeded by
William Ward
Thomas Bates Rous