WEBB, MATTHEW (1848-1883), English swimmer, generally known as " Captain Webb," was born at Dawley in Shropshire on the 18th of January 1848, the son of a doctor. While still a boy he saved one of his brothers from drowning in the Severn, and, while serving on board the training ship in the Mersey, he again distinguished himself by saving a drowning comrade. He served his apprenticeship in the East India and China trade, shipped as second mate for several owners, and in 1874, was awarded the first Stanhope gold medal by the Royal Humane Society for an attempt to save a seaman who had fallen overboard from the Cunard steamship " Russia." In 1875 Captain Webb abandoned a sea-faring life and became a professional swimmer. On the 3rd of July he swam from Blackwall Pier to Gravesend, a distance of 20 m., in 4$ hours, a record which remained unbeaten until 1899. In the same year, after one unsuccessful attempt, he swam the English Channel, on the 24th of August, from Dover to Calais in 21 J hours. For the next few years Webb gave performances of diving and swimming at the Royal Aquarium in London and elsewhere. Crossing to America, he attempted, on the 24th of July 1883, to swim the rapids and whirlpool below Niagara Falls. In this attempt he lost his life.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)