Edward Sabine was born on Great Britain Street, Dublin to Joseph Sabine, a member of a prominent Anglo-Irish family whose connections with the country can be traced back to the seventeenth century. His mother, Sarah Hunt, died when he was just one month old. His elder brother was naturalist Joseph Sabine.
He was educated at Marlow and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. In 1803, at age 15, he obtained a commission in the Royal Artillery as a 2nd lieutenant, becoming a captain ten years later and eventually attaining the rank of general in 1870.
Sabine was stationed in Gibraltar during the Peninsular War, but it was in the War of 1812 against the United States that he had his first taste of combat. In May 1813, while making for Canada, the English packet-ship Manchester was attacked by an American privateer. In the ensuing battle Sabine, who was the Manchester's astronomer, reportedly handled a gun "to good effect."
Sabine continued to see action in the War of 1812, particularly in the Niagara Campaign, where he commanded the batteries at the siege of Fort Erie. After a short spell of military service in Quebec, he returned to England and devoted the remainder of his long life to the more peaceful pursuits of astronomy, terrestrial magnetism and physical geography.
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