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Vicente Tofiño
(1732–1795)

Vicente Tofiño

Vicente Tofiño de San Miguel and Wanderiales (1732-1795) was a Spanish naval officer, astronomer and hydrographer. He studied science and then joined the navy, becoming a mathematics tutor at the Academy of Marine Guards at Cadiz. In 1768 he was appointed director of the academy, and was made director of the academies at Ferrol and Cartagena at the same time. He also rose through the ranks of the navy, becoming a rear admiral. He fought in the invasion of Algiers in 1775 and the siege of Gibraltar in 1782. In 1783, Charles III commissioned a survey of the coasts of Spain. This was symptomatic of an increase in cartographic activity in Spain during the late eighteenth century: as well as the great survey, this period also saw the foundation of the Spanish Hydrographic Office and the mapping of the border of Brazil. Tofiño spent five years surveying the entire Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of Spain, including north Africa and the Balearics, publishing his results as the ‘Atlas Maritimo de las Costas de España’ in 1789. His work used the latest surveying techniques, combining his skills as an astronomer and mathematician. It also used a novel system of describing the composition of the seabed to assist sailors: “P” stood for “piedra”, or rocks; “L” stood for “lama”, or mud, and so forth. In recognition of his work, he was made a member of the academy of natural history in Madrid, and a correspondent of the academy of sciences in Paris and Palma.