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10 Hampshire pioneers who changed the world


Each county has a few inspiring pioneers if you look hard enough, but Hampshire, with it’s royal heritage, naval base, maritime and aviation industry and beautiful natural assets is a fertile ground for inspiring world-changers. Here are just a few...

1. Gilbert White

Admired by David Attenborough and Charles Darwin among others, ‘Gilbert White’s book, more than any other, has shaped our everyday view of the relations between humans and nature’ says his biographer Richard Mabey. White was rector of Selborne and a naturalist, pioneering the study of the natural world around him, meticulously recorded in real time, in a real place, Selborne, over a number of years. The book was The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789) and has never been out of print since.

2. Hubert Scott-Paine

He was a speed-obsessed Hampshire businessman, leading three different pioneering businesses. Firstly, Supermarine Aviation Ltd: with R. J. Mitchell as his designer (later designer of the Spitfire) they designed super-fast seaplanes to compete in the International Schneider Trophy which they won in 1927, 1929 and 1931. Secondly, he developed long-distance, passenger, seaplane travel with Imperial Airways. Passengers left Southampton, in luxurious seaplanes to India and Australia, via waterways on the Nile, East Africa and the Far East, for the first time in the 1930s. Thirdly, he created the British Power Boat Company at Hythe which developed innovative Motor Torpedo Boats for the Navy as well as world water-speed record-breakers such as the revolutionary Miss Britain III which he tested himself, in secrecy on Southampton Water.

3. John Harmar 

John worked as a Warden of Winchester College in the early 1600s. But he also played a major role in the translation of the King James Bible, a huge influence on the English language. The translators of the Bible were comprised the finest (and most ambitious) scholars and clerics in six companies, of which Harmar was a leading member of the second Oxford company. Harmar seems to have been a virtuoso language scholar, widely admired and in his early life he studied in Paris and Geneva, the centre of European biblical scholarship.

4. Julianna de la Floude

Her occupation was a laundress of the 1200s, living by and using the Upper Brook in Winchester. A neighbour of hers, downstream, was the powerful and rich merchant John de Tytynge who tried to block Julianna’s access to the water of the brook. She complained and eventually brought her case to King Edward I at the Great Hall, Winchester. The King ruled in her favour, saying ‘Water has always been common’ adding however that it should not be polluted by blood, human waste, hides or woad waste known as wodger, so that everyone could use it. But this case also has relevance to our laws today. Julianna’s Concord, as it was known, was the first statute law which obligated governments to protect natural resources, such as water, from pollution, for their people. It was used in drawing up the UN Convention of Human Rights and is used today in cases to bring government to account for polluted air. Those of us concerned with environmental issues owe Julianna de la Floude gratitude.

5. Admiral Arthur Philip

The first Governor of New South Wales, founder of Sydney and modern Australia. Australia Day is celebrated on 26th January and this is the day he claimed Sydney Cove in 1788 after his long voyage from Portsmouth with a fleet of eleven ships full of convicts. An experienced naval man, he managed to accurately navigate the 15,063 nautical miles but it was the skills he learnt while running a small farm at Lyndhurst in the New Forest, on less-than-premium soil, that enabled him to create a successful, self-sufficient settlement.

6. King Alfred the Great

A giant character in Anglo-Saxon history and made his base in Winchester (and Winchester has a giant statue of him in the Broadway). Even a few of his accomplishments put him in the category of changing the country’s destiny. He kept the Vikings out of his kingdom - the only one to do so in the 9th century - and established the defence system of fortified towns all through Wessex. But he also founded many churches and encouraged a renewal of the arts, literacy and the English language. He founded the first inkling of a Navy, commissioned the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and set the groundwork for the later union of all England, culturally and politically. So the survival of England as an idea, a culture, a language and a state was in no small part down to Alfred. 

7. Mary Tudor

The first Queen regnant of England – that is she ruled in her own right, not as a consort to a king. Mary gets a bad press through history (a.k.a. Bloody Mary) and is perhaps overshadowed by her sister, Elizabeth I. But it was she who went where no woman had gone before in England – she ruled the country just as a King and she preserved that right even though she married the Catholic ruler, Philip of Spain – which she did in Winchester Cathedral. She passed the 1554 Act of Parliament which redefined royal ritual and law and declared a female ruler, married or unmarried, as having the same authority as any king.

8. Sir Richard St. Barbe-Baker

Born 1889 in West End founded Men of the Trees, known today as International Tree Foundation to try to reforest parts of the planet. As an environmental activist he was well ahead of his time and realised that deforestation was leading to soil erosion and natural disasters such as in America’s dustbowl droughts of the 1930s. He helped reforest Kenya with the Kikuyu people in the 1920s. Today there are around 100 chapters of the Foundation and they have planted around 26 billion trees across the globe.

9. Dr. James Lind

Dr. James Lind working at the Haslar Naval Hospital, Gosport, made great leaps in the prevention of scurvy in the mid-1700s. He also conducted the first random control trials, concluding that citrus juice was the most efficacious in curing and preventing scurvy (the others in his trial were given cider or elixir vitriol or vinegar or sea water or a mixture of nutmeg, garlic, mustard and cream of tartar!). He also studied ship’s fever, actually the highly contagious typhus, and introduced new strict hygiene and isolation measures. His work was pivotal in helping the Royal Navy gain supremacy in warfare, where far more died of disease than in battle.

10. Samuel Franklin Cody

Back when man-carrying kites, balloons and airships were considered military equipment, Samuel Franklin Cody made them all. He developed his war-kites as Chief Instructor of Kiting at the Army School of Ballooning in Farnborough, then designed and built the first airship or Dirigible for the army, Nulli Secundus, in 1907 and in 1908, designed, made and flew the first aeroplane in the country. His flight of 16 October 1908 is recognised as the first official flight of a piloted heavier-than-air machine in Great Britain.

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