Life story told by Yota Dimitriadi
James George Tatem was a keen weather observer. He was a prolific writer about nature and astronomy, too. He was born James George Upham, the second child of James Upham and Sarah Baxter on 21 May 1774. He was born in ‘the Hamlet of Ratcliffe, in the Parish of Stebenheath, otherwise Stepney, in the County of Middlesex’ (The London Gazette on 3 October 1807, p.1317).
James George had an elder sister, Sarah Margaret, and a younger brother, George. He changed the surname from Upham to Tatem, as it was a condition of him receiving an inheritance from his maternal relative, Kinsman George Tatem, of the Parish of St George, Bloomsbury, in the said County of Middlesex,Esquire. George Tatem was a cousin of James George’s maternal grandmother, Margaret Baxter. His relative was ‘His Majesty’s Consul at Messina, in the Island of Sicily; one of the Directors of the Honourable the East India Company; and also one of the Deputy Lieutenants for the City of London’ (The London Gazette on 3 October 1807, p.1317). If James George refused to change his surname, the inheritance would go to George Baxter Upham, James George’s youngest brother.
Jamnes George Tatem, alongside William Henry White, are considered the founders of Britain’s first Meteorological Society based in London. Members included famous physicians like Dr Birkbeck.
When he died, his son donated his father’s meteorological manuscripts to the Society. These included his private weather diary for Reading, which today are cared for by the National Meteorological Archive at Exeter.
Tatem was particularly interested in the education of pauper children and secured a grant of £500 from the government’s Committee of Council on Education for the Committee of Council on Education for the construction of two large class-rooms in the workhouse at Bledlow, near High Wycombe, where he lived at the time.
The 1851 Census gives Tatem’s address as 7 Eldon Square, Reading and he lived at that address until his death on 22 August 1855, aged 81 years. The cause of death, as recorded on the Death Certificate was “Paralysis 4 months. Bronchitis 4 days”. He is buried in Reading Old with his wife Ester (nee Ager) and his youngest daughter Mary. His son James George (Junior) is also buried there is a different plot near his father.
There is detailed information about the life and work of James George Tatem on the publication by the Royal Meteorological Society’s History of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography Special Interest Group.
Buried in Section 58, Row E, Plot 1