George Francis Lyon
|Born||23 January 1796|
|Died||8 October 1832 (aged 36)|
|Years of service||1808–1832|
|Commands held||HMS Hecla, HMS Griper|
George Francis Lyon(23 January 1796 – 8 October 1832) was an English naval officer and explorer of Africa and the Arctic. While not having a particularly distinguished career, he is remembered for the entertaining journals he kept and for the pencil drawings he completed in the Arctic; this information was useful to later expeditions.
He was born in Chichester, the elder son of Lieutenant Colonel George Lyon of the 11th Light Dragoons and Louisa Alexandrina Hart. She was in turn the second daughter of Sir William Neville Hart and Elizabeth Aspinwall. He was educated at Burney's Academy in Gosport, Hampshire.
While he was well known in society, this last failure effectively saw him blacklisted in the Royal Navy and he never had another command. Having been made an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws (DCL) by the University of Oxford in 1825, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on 15 November 1827. He died on 8 October 1832, on board the packet boat Emulous en route from Buenos Aires to Britain to be treated for eye problems.
He married Lucy Louisa, younger daughter of the Irish revolutionary Lord Edward Fitzgerald, on 5 September 1825. They had a daughter, Lucy Pamela Sophia Lyon, born in September 1826. Lucy Louisa Lyon died that same month, while her husband was away in Mexico. He did not find out about her death until he landed at Holyhead, having survived the wreck of the ship bringing him home. His daughter went on to marry Reverend Thomas Ovens in 1849, had three children, and died in 1904.
An aspect of his personality that was rare at the time was his genuine interest in the "natives" of the countries he visited. Wearing a thawb and learning fluent Arabic, he managed to blend in with the inhabitants of North Africa; he was tattooed by the Inuit in the Arctic, using needle and sooty thread, and ate raw caribou and seal meat with them. The expedition achieved little, spending two years in the Arctic and getting only as far the Fury and Hecla Strait before being stopped by ice. But the information recorded about the Inuit tribes that he met proved valuable to later generations of anthropologists, such as Franz Boas and Knud Rasmussen, who relied on his journals as a reference point for their own observations.
He published at least three books about his adventures: