RENNEL, James. Chudleigh, Devonshire 3.12.1742 — London 29.3.1830. British Colonial Officer and Geographer in India. Son of Captain John R. (of artillery), who died in action soon after JR’s birth, educated at Chudleigh. He joined navy in 1756 and came to India as midshipman in Naval service in 1760, but soon left the Navy and joined the E.I.C.’s marine service. In 1764 he was appointed Surveyor-General of Bengal. Major of Bengal Engineers 1776, retired in 1777. F.R.S. 1781. In retirement living in London pursuing geographical studies with the materials in East India House. He was called “the father of Indian geography” and for years was the most appreciated among British geographers. In addition to modern geography he was much interested in historical geography and he prompted Robertson to pursue same studies. Married 1772 Jane Thackeray, two sons and two daughters.
Publications: Bengal Atlas. 1779; on the courses of the Ganges and Brahmaputra, Philosophical Transactions 1781.
– Memoir of a Map of Hindustan; or the Mogul Empire. 1783; 3rd ed. 1793; Memoir of a Map of Peninsular India. 1793.
– Observations on the Topography of the Plain of Troy. 17??; Geography of Africa. 17??.
– Geographical System of Herodotus explained. 1800, new ed. 1819.
– The Marks of the British Army in the Peninsula of India. 17??.
Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; *W.K. Firminger, “Two Letters of Major J.R.”, JASB N.S. 9, 1913, 173-175; *C. A. Frenzel, Major J.R., der Schöpfer der neueren englischen Geographie. Lp. 1904 (diss.); Windisch 15f.; Nouv. Ann. des Voyages 2:16 (46), 1830, 127f.; Wikipedia with portrait; portrait medallion reproduced in MASB 3:8, 1910.
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