Thomas Northmore

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Thomas Northmore (1766–1851) was an English writer, inventor and geologist.


The eldest son of Thomas Northmore of Cleve House, Devon, by Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Richard Osgood of Fulham, he was born at Cleve. He was educated at Tiverton School, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1789, and M.A. in 1792.[1]

On 19 May 1791 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He retired to cultivate his paternal estate, where he lived for the rest of his life, spending time on mechanics, literature, and politics. He contested Exeter in June 1818 as a Radical, when he only polled 293 votes. He also unsuccessfully contested Barnstaple. [1]

He discovered about 1824 the bones in Kents Cavern at Torquay. He found beneath the bed of mud which lies under the stalagmitic flooring of the cavern the tusk of a hyæna, and then a metatarsal bone of the cavern bear. These finds proved important to later work on the antiquity of the human race. A much more thorough dig was undertaken by William Pengelly and the British Association.[1]

Northmore died at Furzebrook House, near Axminster, on 20 May 1851.[1]


His works are: [1]

  • Tryphiodōrou Iliou Alōsis. De plurimis mendis purgata, et notis illustrata a T. Northmore (Greek), London, 1791; reissued with a Latin version in 1804.
  • Plutarch's Treatise upon the Distinction between a Friend and Flatterer, with Remarks, London, 1793.
  • Memoirs of Planetes, or a Sketch of the Laws and Manners of Makar. By Phileleutherus Devoniensis, London, 1795. In this work a utopian form of government is described.
  • A Triplet of Inventions, consisting of a Description of a Nocturnal or Diurnal Telegraph, a Proposal for an Universal Character, and a Scheme for facilitating the Progress of Science; exemplified in the Osteological part of Anatomy, Exeter, 1796.
  • A Quadruplet of Invention, Exeter, 1796; an augmented edition of the ‘Triplet.’
  • An edition of Thomas Gray's Tour through England and Wales [1799].
  • Of Education founded upon Principles. Part the First. Time: previous to the Age of puberty, London, 1800.
  • Washington; or Liberty restored: a Poem in ten Books, London, 1809; Baltimore, 1809; notice in ‘Quarterly Review,’ ii. 365–75.

In Nicholson's Journal he wrote on Effects on Gases by change in their Habitudes, or elective Attractions, when mechanically compressed, 1805 (vol. xii. p. 368), and on Experiments on condensed Gases, 1806 (vol. xiii. p. 233).[2]


He married, first, Penelope, eldest daughter of Sir William Earle Welby, bart., of Denton Hall, Lincolnshire, and, secondly Emmeline, fifth daughter of Sir John Eden, bart., of Windlestone Park and Beamish Park, Durham. By his first wife he had one son, and by his second wife one son and nine daughters. The eldest son, Thomas Welby Northmore, married his cousin Katherine, third daughter of Sir William Earle Welby, bart., and died before his father, leaving two sons—Thomas Welby, who succeeded his grandfather in the paternal estates, and John, who joined the civil service in Ceylon. [1]



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCooper, Thompson (1895). "Northmore, Thomas". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 41. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

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