Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 136,294 pages of information and 219,021 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
Rear-Admiral Sir (William) Edward Parry (1790-1855)
1839 Captain Sir Edward Parry (1790–1855), of the Admiralty, a distinguished officer in the British Navy and head of HM Steam Ships Department, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
1856 Obituary 
REAR-ADMIRAL SIR WILLIAM EDWARD PARRY, fourth son of Dr. Caleb Hillier Parry, was born at Bath, on the 19th of December, 1790, and, at the age of thirteen, entered the Royal Navy as a first-class Volunteer.
He successively became Master's Mate and Midshipman, and while in command of one of the gunboats attached to his ship, the 'Vanguard,' was frequently engaged with the Danish flotilla.
On his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant in 1810, he joined the 'Alexandria,' and devoted much of his time to astronomical observations, and the construction of charts of various portions of the coasts of Sweden, Denmark, and the Shetland Islands.
In 1813, he was appointed to the North American station, and, in the following year, took part, as Lieutenant of the 'Hogue,' in the boat-attack near Pettipague Point, which resulted in the capture of three American privateers, and the destruction of the naval stores of the enemy. The spirit of enterprise for which he waso distinguished, led him to volunteer, shortly afterwards, for the Congo expedition, but he was not able to join in time.
At this period, attention was directed in England to a subject, which was destined to reflect immortal renown on Parry, and with which his name must for ever be indissolubly associated. On the recommendation of the Royal Society, the Government resolved on fitting out two expeditions, for the purpose of ascertaining the practicability of that North-West Passage to India, which had so long been the dream of navigators and geographers. To Lieutenant Parry was given the command of the brig 'Alexander,' and, in 1818, under the command of Captain, (afterwards Sir John,) Ross, he accompanied the first expedition into the Arctic regions. This enterprise proved a failure, and the expedition returned home within the same year.
In 1819, the Admiralty determined on fitting out another expedition, which was intrusted to the command of Lieutenant Parry, and under his superintendence, the ‘Hecla’ and ‘Griper’ were equipped, and sailed from the Thames on the 11th of May. Owing to the unparalleled freedom from ice, which characterised the Arctic season of 1819, the expedition was enabled, during the same year, to penetrate Westward as far as Melville Island, and thus to secure the reward of £5,000, offered by Parliament to those who should first succeed in crossing the 110th meridian, in those latitudes. Beyond this point, no subsequent expedition from the Eastward, has been able to penetrate. It is somewhat remarkable, that to him also should be due the discovery, at the same time, of Banks’ Land, the furthest point attained by the recent. expedition from Behring’s Straits, under Captain McClure, which thus eventually solved the problem of the North-West Passage.
The ships wintered at Melville Island, but, in the subsequent year, were prevented, by the great accumulation of ice, from realizing, the sanguine expectations of success which had been entertained, and after many futile attempts, the return to England became indispensable. An interesting narrative of the proceedings and discoveries of the expedition, was published by Lieutenant Parry, under the title of 'Journal of a Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage in 1819-20.' For his distinguished services, he was promoted, on his return, to the rank of Commander : and received from all classes of his fellow-countrymen, convincing proofs of their universal esteem and respect.
Encouraged by the discoveries already effected, another expedition was immediately resolved upon ; and in 1821, he again sailed, in command of the ‘Fury,’ with the ‘Hecla’ for consort. Two successive winters were passed in the polar regions, and after having endured great sufferings, the expedition returned in 1823, without having accomplished the object of the voyage, but with many valuable additions to geographical science. During his absence, Captain Parry had been rewarded by a post-commission, dated November 1821, and on his return, he was appointed Hydrographer to the Admiralty. Still anxious, however, for the success of his project, he took charge, in the ‘Hecla,’ of a third expedition in 1824 ; but, in the ensuing summer, the ‘Fury’ was unfortunately wrecked, and, having transferred the crew to his own ship, he forthwith returned to England.
The failure of these last expeditions did not abate his ardour in the cause of Arctic research, but rather served to incline it in a new direction; with which view, he proposed an expedition to the North Pole, by way of Spitzbergen. Having obtained the sanction of the Government, he sailed in the ‘Hecla,’ which he left in Treurenberg Bay, and taking to his sledge-boats, reached, on the 23rd of July, 1827, after great peril and labour, the highest latitude ever yet attained, 82’ 45’ N. The southerly drifting of the ice preventing all further progress, he retraced his steps to the ‘Hecla,’ in which he returned to England, and with this achievement, terminated his long and arduous services in the Arctic regions.
He then resumed his duties as Hydrographer, which post he resigned in May, 1829, when, after receiving the honour of knighthood, he went out to New South Wales, as Commissioner to the Australian Agricultural Company, in which capacity he acted till 1834.
In 1835, he was appointed Assistant Poor Law Commissioner in the county of Norfolk, a post, which he was compelled, from illness, to relinquish at the expiration of a year.
In 1837, he was appointed to organise the Admiralty Packet Service ; he subsequently became Comptroller of the Steam Department of the Navy, and, in 1846, Inspector-General of Haslar Hospital. He succeeded to his flag in June, 1852, and on the 19th of December, 1853, was named Lieutenant-Governor of Greenwich Hospital, which office he held till his death. This melancholy event took place on the 8th of July, 1855, in his sixty-fifth year, at Ems, in Germany, whither he had gone in t,he hope of recruiting his failing health.
Sir Edward Parry had received the honorary degree of LL.D. from the University of Oxford, - was a Fellow and Member of Council of the Royal Society of London, to whose Transactions he contributed several Papers, - a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, - Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy, -and Honorary Member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.
On the 19th of February, 1839, he was elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, among whose Members he had rendered himself extremely popular, by the kindness of his manner, and his accessibility, whilst holding the position of Director of Steam Machinery, the duties of which he performed with singular uprightness and skill.
It is needless to expatiate on the enterprise and zeal with which he conducted those Arctic expeditions, which have acquired for him imperishable renown, and reflected honour on his country. In private life, he was beloved for his kind and affectionate disposition, and to all with whom his public duties brought him in contact, he was most affable and courteous. Ever ready to relieve distress, he contributed to the full extent his means would permit, to the support of public charities, more especially those connected with his own profession. His short residence at Greenwich Hospital sufficed to gain for him universal respect and esteem, by the untiring benevolence which he combined with that calm and firm discharge of his duties, which had ever distinguished his more arduous undertakings. He was twice married ; and he has left to his surviving children, the proud inheritance of an unsullied fame.