William Paterson (explorer)

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William Paterson
Colonel William Paterson.jpg
1st Commandant at Port Dalrymple
In office
16 February 1804 – 24 March 1808
Succeeded byJohn Brabyn
Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales
In office
13 December 1794[1] – 1 September 1795
Preceded byFrancis Grose
Succeeded byOffice Vacant
In office
24 March 1806 – 1 January 1808
Preceded byOffice Vacant
Succeeded byGeorge Johnston
Personal details
Born(1755-08-17)17 August 1755
Montrose, Scotland
Died21 June 1810(1810-06-21) (aged 54)
At sea aboard HMS Dromedary off Cape Horn
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Driver
Military service
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1781–1810
Unit98th Regiment of Foot
73rd Regiment of Foot
CommandsNew South Wales Corps

Colonel William Paterson, FRS (17 August 1755 – 21 June 1810) was a Scottish soldier, explorer, Lieutenant governor and botanist best known for leading early settlement in Tasmania. The standard author abbreviation Paterson is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name.[2]


Early years[edit]

A native of Montrose, Scotland, Paterson was interested in botany as a boy and trained in horticulture at Syon in London.[3] Paterson was sent to the Cape Colony by the wealthy and eccentric Countess of Strathmore to collect plants, he arrived in Table Bay on board the "Houghton" in May 1777. He made four trips into the interior between May 1777 and March 1780, when he departed. In 1789 Paterson published Narrative of Four Journeys into the Country of the Hottentots and Caffraria, which he dedicated to Sir Joseph Banks.


Paterson was originally commissioned as an ensign in the 98th Regiment of Foot and served in India. He later transferred to the 73rd Regiment of Foot after the 98th's disbandment in 1787. In 1789, he was promoted to captain in the New South Wales Corps, serving under Major Francis Grose.[4] After some time spent recruiting, he arrived in Sydney in October 1791. From November 1791 until March 1793 he served in command on Norfolk Island. Whilst there he collected botanical, geological and insect specimens and sent them to Banks. He also provided seed to the Lee and Kennedy and Colvill nurseries.[5] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in May 1798.[6]

In 1794 he served for a year as Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales. In 1800 he was re-appointed to the post and served a second term until 1808.

He led an expedition to the Hunter Region in 1801 and up the Paterson River (later named in his honour by Governor King) and in 1804 led an expedition to Port Dalrymple, in what is now Tasmania, exploring the Tamar River and going up the North Esk River farther than European had previously gone.[7]

Between 1804 and 1808 Paterson was also appointed Commandant at Port Dalrymple, the administrator of the colony in the north of Van Diemen's Land. In 1806, Paterson's duties as commander of the New South Wales Corps required him to return to Sydney, but he went back to Van Diemen's Land in 1807, and stayed until December 1808. During this time he corresponded regularly with the eminent naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, sending a number of specimens.

The New South Wales Corps selected Paterson as acting Governor of New South Wales on 1 January 1809 after the deposition of Governor Captain William Bligh in the so-called "Rum Rebellion." He was replaced by the newly arrived Lachlan Macquarie by the end of the year. He left Sydney for England on 12 May 1810, but died on board HMS Dromedary while off Cape Horn just a few weeks later.

His widow Elizabeth married Francis Grose in April 1814, but he died a month later. Elizabeth died in Liverpool, England in 1839.


  1. ^ "GOVERNORS". Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876). Vic.: National Library of Australia. 6 January 1868. p. 4 Edition: EVENINGS. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  2. ^ IPNI.  Paterson.
  3. ^ Smith, N., 'William Paterson: amateur colonial botanist, 1755–1810’, Australian Garden History, 17 (1), 2005, pp. 8–10.
  4. ^ "Officers of His Majesty's New South Wales Corps of Foot" in Bladen (ed.) 1978, p. 223
  5. ^ Smith, N., 'William Paterson: amateur colonial botanist, 1755–1810’, Australian Garden History, 17 (1), 2005, pp. 8–10.
  6. ^ "Lists of Royal Society Fellows 1660–2007". London: The Royal Society. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  7. ^ Bladen, F. M., ed. (1897), Historical records of New South Wales, Volume 5—King, 1803–1805, Sydney: Charles Potter, Government Printer, pp. 494–500, archived from the original on 30 March 2011


  • Bladen, F. M., ed. (1978). Historical records of New South Wales. Vol. 2. Grose and Paterson, 1793-1795. Lansdown Slattery & Co. ISBN 0868330035.

Further reading[edit]

  • Alexander, Alison (editor) (2005), The Companion to Tasmanian History, Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart. ISBN 1-86295-223-X.*Paterson, Lieut. William (1789) A Narrative of four Journeys into the Country of the Hottentotts and Caffria. In the Years One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Seven, Eight, and Nine. J. Johnson ... 1789.
  • Vernon S. Forbes and John Rourke (1980), Paterson's Cape Travels, 1777 to 1779, Johannesburg, Brenthurst Press. ISBN 0-909079-12-9
  • Leonard Guelke and Jeanne K. Guelke (2004), 'Imperial eyes on South Africa: reassessing travel narratives', Journal of Historical Geography.[1]
  • Robson, L.L. (1983) A history of Tasmania. Volume 1. Van Diemen's Land from the earliest times to 1855, Melbourne, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-554364-5
  • Anne-Maree Whitaker (2004), 'Mrs Paterson's keepsakes: the provenance of some significant colonial documents and paintings', Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society.[2]
  • Brendan Whiting (2004), Victims of Tyranny: The Story of the Fitzgerald Convict Brothers, Harbour Publishing. ISBN 0-646-43345-8
  • David S. Macmillan, 'Paterson, William (1755–1810)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, MUP, 1967, pp 317–319

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Francis Grose
Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Office vacant
Preceded by
Office Vacant
Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
George Johnston
Preceded by
New position
Commandant at Port Dalrymple
Succeeded by
John Brabyn