Christopher Middleton

(1738—1770) explorer in Canada

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

(d. 1770),

English navigator and explorer in Canada. Christopher Middleton was born at Newton Bewley, near Billingham, England, sometime during the 1690s. After serving on privateers during the French wars, he joined the Hudson's Bay Company in 1721 and sailed that year to Hudson Bay as second mate. In later writings Middleton stated that he had joined the company because of his interest in the Northwest Passage, and that he had wintered at Churchill in 1721–1722 in the hope of sailing north in one of the company's sloops the following summer. He was disappointed in this, but in 1725 he was appointed captain of one of the company's ships. In all, Middleton made sixteen voyages to Hudson Bay. He was a skilled navigator with a scientific bent, and his observations on magnetic variation were published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1726. He was among the first seamen to use Hadley's new quadrant, and was one of the few able to determine longitude by observation of the satellites of Jupiter. In 1737 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in recognition of his contributions to the theory and practice of navigation. By this time he was in regular contact with Arthur Dobbs, who was attempting to mount an expedition to Hudson Bay to search for the Northwest Passage, and when in 1741 the Admiralty agreed to supply two ships for such a venture, Middleton resigned from the Hudson's Bay Company and was appointed captain in the Royal Navy.


From The Oxford Companion to World Exploration in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: World History.

Reference entries