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Captain George William Manby (1765–1854)

Captain George William ManbyRoyal Navy Officer and Inventor

Was born near Downham Market, Norfolk, in 1765, the son of Captain Matthew Pepper Manby of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. George Manby had one younger brother - Thomas Manby (1769–1834). George went to school at Downham, where he became close friends with Horatio Nelson (Vice-Admiral, 1st Viscount Nelson). Manby attended school in Kent and entered the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich – he then joined the Cambridgeshire Militia, where he gained his rank as Captain.

Manby moved to Clifton, Bristol in 1801, where he published several books, including: The History and Antiquities of St David's (1801), followed by Sketches of the History and Natural Beauties of Clifton (1802) and A Guide from Clifton to the Counties of Monmouth, Glamorgan, etc. (1802). A pamphlet Manby wrote, called, An Englishman's Reflexions [sic.] on the Author of the Present Disturbances (1803) (about the threatened invasion of England by the French under Napoleon) was noticed by the Secretary of War who appointed Manby, Barrack-Master at Great Yarmouth.

In 1807 Captain Manby witnessed a Naval ship called the Snipe run aground off Great Yarmouth during a storm. 214 people died in the accident, which happened just 60 yards (55 metres) offshore. This tragedy prompted Manby to think about rescue apparatus and means of communicating between ships and the shore. By experimenting with a mortar borrowed from the Board of Ordinance, Manby invented a way to communicate with a vessel in trouble off the coast.

Manby’s other lifesaving inventions include: a (nearly) unsinkable lifeboat; methods of saving people’s lives after falling through ice; and the Extincteur, which was effectively the first portable pressurized fire extinguisher.

Captain Manby was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1831. He died at his house in Southtown, Great Yarmouth, in 1854.

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