Sir Thomas Stamford RafflesPolitical Leader / Zoologist
Born: 6 July 1781
Died: 5 July 1826 (possible brain tumor)
Birthplace: At sea, near Jamaica
Best known as: Founder of Singapore
Thomas Stamford Raffles founded the British colony of Singapore. In 1795 Raffles became a clerk for the powerful British East India Company, which (with the support of the British government) was battling with the Dutch for control of Southeast Asia. Raffles flourished, rising to become lieutenant governor of Java in 1811. In 1819 he founded Singapore by purchasing the land for the British East India Company. Singapore became a bustling port and a key element in the expanding British empire, securing Raffles' place in history. (Singapore became an independent state in 1965.) Unlike many empire builders, Raffles is generally remembered fondly, as a benevolent figure who opened doors of opportunity and fought slave trading in the region. Raffles also was an enthusiastic natural historian who founded the London Zoological Society (and along with it the London Zoo). He was knighted in 1817, the same year he published his well-received History of Java.
Extra credit: Raffles was born at sea, off the coast of Jamaica... The Raffles Hotel in Singapore was opened in 1887 and became one of the world's most famous inns; according to local lore, the Singapore Sling cocktail was invented in the hotel's Long Bar in 1915 by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon.
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