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Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt
English vice-admiral, hydrographer and geologist
Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt (11 May 1811 - 12 March 1888) was an English vice-admiral, hydrographer and geologist.
He was born at Woodway House, East Teignmouth, the eldest surviving son of Commander James Spratt, RN, a hero of Trafalgar. He entered the navy in 1827 and was attached to the surveying branch on "HMS Victory". He was engaged almost continuously until 1863 in surveying the Mediterranean. As commander of the "Spitfire" he rendered distinguished service in the Black Sea during the Crimean War, and was appointed CB in 1855.
At an earlier date he was associated with Edward Forbes, then naturalist to the "Beacon", and during the years 1841-1843 they made observations on the bathymetrical distribution of marine life. He was specially indebted to Forbes for his interest in natural history and geology, and together they published Travels in Lycia, etc. (1847). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society as The author of Travels in Lycia, & Important papers in the Journals of the Geological & Geographical Societies.
Whilst on sick leave in Teignmouth due to the after effects of malaria he investigated the movements of the Sand Bars at Teignmouth and suggested practical means of improving the entrance to the harbour. He published his research in 1856 and was congratulated by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who was building the South Devon Railway at the time, for the clarity and practicality of his work.
Spratt investigated the caves at Malta and obtained remains of the pygmy elephant (Elephas melitensis), which was described by Hugh Falconer. He investigated the geology of several Greek islands, also the shores of Asia Minor, and made detailed observations on the Nile delta.
He was especially distinguished for his Travels and Researches in Crete (2 vols., 1865), in which he ably described the physical geography, geology, archaeology (Eleutherna Bridge) and natural history of the island.
Two fossil species were named in his honour and several books were dedicated to him. He was commissioner of fisheries from 1866 to 1873; and acting conservator of the Mersey from 1879 until the close of his life.
He died at Tunbridge Wells on 12 March 1888. He had married in Sophia Price; they had one son.
Trivia: One of the maps made by Thomas Spratt known as 'Spratt's Map' was used by archaeologists Heinrich Schliemann, Wilhelm Dorpfeld and Carl Blegen, which contributed to the discovery of Troy, because the name Troy with a question mark was added by a German professor of classical antiquities working with Spratt over the spot of the real Troy. He had added it, because it was above the ruins of the identified Greek city of Novo Ilium (New Troy.) Schliemann simply looked at the map he was using, saw Troy with a question mark, and thought that it would be a good place to start digging leading to the discovery of Troy. This was covered in the book The Ulysses Voyage, by Tim Severin.
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