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Sir John Henry Lefroy (1817–1890)

This article was published:

John Henry Lefroy, by J. W. Beattie

John Henry Lefroy, by J. W. Beattie

State Library of Tasmania, 609990

Sir John Henry Lefroy (1817-1890), soldier, governor and administrator, was born on 28 January 1817 at Ashe, Hampshire, England, son of Rev. John Henry George Lefroy (d.1823) and his wife Sophia, née Cotterell. Educated at Alton, Richmond, and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, he was appointed second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in December 1834, captain in 1842 and colonel in 1865. He had been director of the magnetical observatory at St Helena in 1840-42 and at Toronto, Canada, in 1842-53. He travelled widely in the north on magnetic and meteorological research, founded the Canadian Institute in 1849 and was awarded a doctorate by McGill University. In 1854 he became senior clerk at the War Office and scientific adviser on artillery and inventions in the Crimean war. In 1856 he prepared a detailed scheme of military training and was inspector-general of army schools in 1857-60. He served on the royal commission on defence in 1859 and in 1868-70 as director-general of ordnance he was made a C.B. In 1871 he became governor of Bermuda and before he left in 1877 was appointed a K.C.M.G. In 1846 he had married Emily Merry Robinson; she died in 1859 and in 1860 he married Charlotte Anna Dundas, widow of Colonel Mountain.

In August 1880 Lefroy was appointed administrator of Tasmania. He arrived at Hobart with his wife and daughter in October and was sworn in. Alert, cheerful and unobtrusive, he soon won immense popularity. He travelled throughout the colony and became well acquainted with its political and moral progress. He visited many mines, agricultural shows, concerts, art displays and particularly state schools where he went into each department, distributed pencils, shillings and lollies, listened to endless recitations and critically examined the outhouses. As president of the Royal Society of Tasmania he never missed a meeting, and his wife held regular fortnightly receptions at Government House. In Hobart and Launceston Lefroy also gave an erudite lecture on 'The Southern Skies', the proceeds going to the Young Men's Christian Association and the Risdon Home of Refuge. When he left the colony in November 1881 the Tasmanian Volunteer Artillery Corps presented him with an engraved plate for his constant support. The new governor, Sir George Strahan, arrived early in December.

Lefroy retired in 1882 as a colonel-commandant but gave occasional lectures and in 1885-88 served on the committee of the universities mission to Central Africa. He died at Lewarne, Cornwall, on 11 April 1890, survived by his second wife, two sons and two daughters. Lefroy was a fellow of many learned societies and his many publications included works on meteorology, astronomy, magnetic observations, antiquarian research and a much used textbook on artillery practice.

Select Bibliography

  • Australasian, 21 Aug 1880
  • Mercury (Hobart), 11 July, 25 Nov 1881
  • Argus (Melbourne), 15 Apr 1890.

Citation details

'Lefroy, Sir John Henry (1817–1890)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 12 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

John Henry Lefroy, by J. W. Beattie

John Henry Lefroy, by J. W. Beattie

State Library of Tasmania, 609990

Life Summary [details]


28 January, 1817
Ashe, Hampshire, England


11 April, 1890 (aged 73)
Lewarne, Cornwall, England

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