British surveyor of tropical African coast. William Fitzwilliam Owen was born in Manchester in 1774, the younger son of Commander William Owen (died 1778). He entered the Royal Navy in 1788 as a midshipman. Owen's interest in hydrography began in 1806 when he made a preliminary survey of the Maldives; a remarkable career in charting seas and lakes followed. Owen was captured by the French in 1808 and spent twenty-one months on Mauritius. A fellow captive was Matthew Flinders (1774–1814), who must have nurtured Owen's interest in surveying. While engaged on naval operations in 1810–1811, he surveyed the seas around Java. Captain Owen truly made his mark in 1815–1817 with a survey of the Great Lakes commissioned by the Admiralty's Hydrographic Office to establish the border between the United States and Canada in the aftermath of the War of 1812.
From The Oxford Companion to World Exploration in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: World History.