Petty, William

William Petty FRS (1623-1687)

William Petty, surveyor and landowner, came to Ireland in 1652 as the Physician-General of Cromwell's army. He had already been a seaman, a professor of anatomy at Oxford, and a music teacher in London.

After the Cromwellian confiscation of Irish chieftan's lands, Petty was given the job of making a systematic survey of the whole of Ireland. For the task, he trained and supervised a thousand soldiers who completed the work in 15 months. This achievement started him on the path to being an extensive land-owner. As payment for the survey, he received 3500 acres of land in Kenmare, to which he added 2000 more from soldiers anxious to leave Ireland for home.

In 1661, King Charles 11 knighted him and gave him the remainder of Kenmare and Tuoist parishes; he then owned 270,000 acres of land in County Kerry. In later years, Petty was to be one of the founders of demographic and economic statistics, a founding member of the Royal Society, and a Member of Parliament.

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