Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane (1773-1860), Scottish soldier and astronomer, was born on the 23rd of July 1773 at Brisbane House, near Largs, in Ayrshire. He entered the army in 1789, and served in Flanders, the West Indies and the Peninsula. In 1814 he was sent to North America; on the return of Napoleon from Elba he was recalled, but did not arrive in time to take part in the battle of Waterloo. In 1821 he was appointed governor of New South Wales. During the four years for which he held that office, although he allowed the finances of the colony to get into confusion, he endeavoured to improve its condition by introducing the vine, sugar-cane and tobacco plant, and by encouraging the breeding of horses and the reclamation of land. At his instigation exploring parties were sent out, and one of these discovered the Brisbane river which was named after him. He established an astronomical observatory at Paramatta in 1822, and the Brisbane Catalogue, which was printed in 1835 and contained 7385 stars, was the result of observations made there in 1822-1826. The observatory was discontinued in 1855. After his return to Scotland he resided chiefly at Makerstoun in Roxburghshire, where, as at Brisbane House, he had a large and admirably equipped observatory.
Important magnetic observations were begun at Makerstoun in 1841, and the results gained him in 1848 the Keith prize of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, in whose Transactions they were published. In 1836 he was made a baronet, and G.C.B. in 1837; and in 1841 he became general. He was elected president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh after the death of Sir Walter Scott in 1833, and in the following year acted as president of the British Association. He died at Brisbane House on the 27th of January 1860. He founded two gold medals for the encouragement of scientific research, one in the award of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the other in that of the Scottish Society of Arts.