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Alexander Maconochie


1787 - 1860

Geographer and penal reformer. Maconochie began his career in the Royal Navy, rising to the rank of Captain. In 1833, he was appointed the first Professor of Geography at the University of London. He maintained an interest in the Pacific region and from 1836 worked in Australia. In 1840, he was appointed Superintendent of the penal settlement at Norfolk Island on the Australian coast and it is in this role that he is best remembered. He found the prison to be a brutal and miserable establishment and at once began applying reforms to create a more humane environment. Maconochie instituted a system whereby prisoners could shorten their sentences through good behaviour. However, the British authorities did not appreciate his methods and he was replaced in 1844. The prison quickly degenerated back into a regime of cruelty and recrimination.


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