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NATHAN , English family, distinguished in public service. The first member of the family to settle in England was meyer (Michael) nathan who came from Dessau about 1790. His grandson, Jonah, married twice. sir nathaniel (1843–1916), the son of Jonah's first marriage, a barrister practicing in Birmingham from 1873 to 1888, became attorney general, judge of the Supreme Court, and from 1901 to 1903 acting chief justice of Trinidad. His half brother, sir frederic lewis (1861–1933), explosives expert and soldier, joined the Royal Artillery in 1879 and organized explosives manufacture before and during World War i. Later, he specialized in fuel problems and was president of the Institution of Chemical Engineers from 1925 to 1927. From 1905 to 1926 he was commandant of the Jewish Lads' Brigade. Frederic's brother sir matthew (1862–1939) joined the Royal Engineers in 1880 and served in Sudan and India. The first Jew to be a colonial governor, he was governor of the Gold Coast (1900–03), Hong Kong (1904–07), and Natal (1907–09). Secretary to the General Post Office and the Board of Inland Revenue, he was appointed undersecretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1914 and was in sole charge of Dublin Castle when the Easter Rising occurred in 1916. An inquiry criticized his failure to warn the British government of the danger. After serving as secretary of the Ministry of Pensions he became governor of Queensland (1920–26) and retired to Somerset where he took part in local government and wrote a monumental local history. In Jewish life, he represented the New West End Synagogue on the United Synagogue Council. The fourth brother, sir robert (1866–1921), served in the Indian civil service from 1888 to 1915 and was appointed chief secretary to the governor of Eastern Bengal and Assam in 1910. In World War i he did important work in counterespionage.


P.H. Emden, Jews of Britain (1943), index; Roth, Mag Bibl. index; dnb, s.v. add. bibliography: odnb online for Sir Matthew Nathan; A.B. Haydon, Sir Matthew Nathan, British Colonial Governor and Civil Servant (1972).

[Vivian David Lipman]

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