Bernard Romans (c. 1720 – 1784)was a Dutch-born polymath who worked in the British American colonies and the United States. He is best known for his 1775 A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida, and had several seminal maps of the British Colonies to his credit, considered the best produced to date of their respective areas. He was born in Delft as Barend Romans; he was educated there, but emigrated to England at an early age, and relocated to America in and around 1757 during the course of the Seven Years' War. He married in Albany, New York, having a son in 1762. He entered service with the British during the war, at times as a privateer. His travels during and after the war took him as far as Labrador, Curaçao, Cartagena, and Panama. They were not always remunerative: at one point he lost nearly all his wealth in a shipwreck; in order to make ends meet he gained employment as a surveyor - both privately, and for the Georgia colony. It was during this period, between 1770 and 1772, that he surveyed the Florida coastline as well as well as the interior of West Florida. 1773 found Romans traveling north to sell his nautical charts and his work on the natural history of Florida. Yet another shipwreck - his ship having been capsized - ruined seeds and plant specimens that he had collected. He was able to save his charts, however, and undertook to find backers for a book on the natural history of Florida, which would contain his maps of the Floridas and the Caribbean. His efforts gained him entry to the Marine Society of the City of New York in 1773, and the next year to the American Philosophical Society. He succeeded in publishing the first volume of his Concise Natural History in 1775, and it was successful enough to warrant a further edition the following year. With the advent of the American Revolution, his sympathies were with the Americans: he would be in 1775 mad a captain of the Connecticut Committee of Safety, and raised a body of 200 men to assist in the taking of Fort Ticonderoga and Fort George. While it is not known if he was actually there, Romans published a depiction of the battle of Bunker Hill and a map of the area around Boston. Ironically, British officers benefitted from Romans' cartographic efforts: his map of the Southeast and Florida was included in the so-called Holster Atlas, intended for the use of British officers. Also, Romans' book suffered from the war: his publisher, deemed overly neutral in the conflict, suffered the sacking of his printing house by a patriotic mob. Nevertheless, in between efforts to design defenses for American forces and spying out British naval efforts in Lake Champlain, he produced more maps: two of Connecticut, one of Penssylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware, and a map of the Northeast.

Romans would resign his commission in 1778, thereafter working on a history of Dutch oppression at the hands of the British. In 1780 he would go back to war, intending to serve with the American army in South Carolina. His nautical misfortunes continued tragically: his ship from New London to Charleston was captured by the British Navy. He was held prisoner until the end of the war, and died on shipboard while returning home - thought by some, including his widow, to have been murdered en route.

It is tantalizing to think what Romans might have achieved with more time: Back in 1774 he had been promoting the notion of a bold expedition: an exploration the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes, turning thence to the Pacific coast. The goal then would be to cross the Pacific to northeastern, Asia, and then travel through Russia, eventually reaching Great Britain. It should be noted that this proposed journey predated Lewis and Clark by thirty years.

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