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Sir Edward James Reed (20 September 1830 – 30 November 1906), KCB, FRS, was the Chief Constructor of the Royal Navy from 1863 until 1870. Following his resignation he became a member of Parliament and author.



Edward Reed was born in Sheerness, in the county of Kent, England, in 1830. He was a naval apprentice at Sheerness and subsequently entered the School of Mathematics and naval construction at Portsmouth. In 1851 he married Rosetta, the sister of Nathaniel Barnaby. Barnaby was at that time a fellow student; he would subsequently succeed Reed as Chief Constructor.

In 1860, Reed was appointed Secretary to the Institute of Naval Architects, and in 1863, at the early age of 33, succeeded Isaac Watts as Chief Constructor. Notable warships constructed under his direction included the ocean-going turret-ship HMS Monarch and the mastless turret ship HMS Devastation. His term of office was marred by intense controversy with the naval officer, MP and inventor Cowper Phipps Coles. This culminated in the funding by Parliament of a new battleship, HMS Captain, to be built to Coles' requirement without reference to Reed's department and contrary to his advice. Embittered, Reed resigned in July 1870. "His departure was described as a national disaster by the Controller, Vice-Admiral Robert Spencer Robinson."[1] The following September, the Captain foundered in a gale with the loss of nearly 500 lives.

Reed subsequently entered Parliament, serving as MP for Pembroke (1874-1880) and Cardiff (1880-1895 and 1900-1905); in 1886 he was appointed Lord of the Treasury. He was a trenchant, though ultimately reactionary, critic of the policy of his successors as Chief Constructor.

Reed visited Japan in 1879 at the invitation of the imperial government which was building up its navy. A history of Japan written by Reed was published the following year.

Reed died in London in 1906 and is buried in Putney Vale Cemetery.


Reed was appointed Companion of the Bath (CB) in 1868, during his term as Chief Constructor, and subsequently Knight Commander of the Bath (KCB) in 1880. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1876.

"Sir Edward Reed of England and his Florida Transit Railroad was interested in purchasing the South Florida but a deal could not be worked out and the road started construction on the 18 mile extension on October 6, 1881, with completion to Kissimmee on March 25, 1882." (Per Donald R. Hensley, Jr.

On September 28, 1883, Sir Edward James Reed and his wife, Rosetta Reed purchased property located in Florida at NE 1/2 of NW 1/4 and S1/4 of NE 1/4 of Sections 12 and Township 19S of R25E (Per Orlando, Orange County Florida Official Records, Book 1, Page 93).


Notable works include

  • Shipbuilding in Iron and Steel (1868)
  • Our Ironclad Ships, their Qualities, Performance and Cost (1869)
  • Japan: its History, Traditions, and Religions Two volumes. London, J. Murray (1880)
  • Treatise on the stability of ships (1884)


Further reading

  • Brown, DK (2003). Warrior to Dreadnought: Warship Development 1860-1905. Caxton Editions. ISBN 1-84067-529-2.
  • Archibald, EHH (1984). The Fighting Ship in the Royal Navy 1897-1984. Blandford. ISBN 0-7137-1348-8.

External links

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