Bancroft, Edward

Bancroft, Edward,

1744–1821, spy in the American Revolution, b. Westfield, Mass. He studied medicine and natural history, producing a book (1769) on Guiana's flora and fauna, a defense of the colonies in their controversy with Britain (1769), and an epistolary novel (1770). While living in London, he was elected (1773) to the Royal SocietyRoyal Society,
oldest scientific organization in Great Britain and one of the oldest in Europe. It was founded in 1660 by a group of learned men in London who met to promote scientific discussion, particularly in the physical sciences.
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 and set up a medical practice. There he became a friend and supporter of Benjamin Franklin and later acted as his aide in France. In the Revolution Bancroft began to operate as an American secret agent. He reported to the American commissioners in France, but, unknown to them, he was a double agent and reported their movements to the British. Bancroft in 1778 gave advance information of the Franco-American alliance to the British. Evidence of his duplicity was revealed by Paul L. Ford in 1891.


See biography by T. J. Schaeper (2011).

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Bancroft, Edward

(1744–1821) secret agent, inventor; born in Westfield, Mass. He moved to England and was a double agent—working simultaneously for both Benjamin Franklin and the British government—during the American Revolution. He remained in England and made discoveries in textile dyes manufacturing.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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