Joseph Huddart, British hydrographer and manufacturer, showed an aptitude for mathematics and mechanics from an early age. After his schooling he went to sea in the employ of a fish-curing business in which his father was involved. In 1768 he built his own brig, with which he traded to North America. He studied navigation and did port surveys in his spare time, while continuing his work for the business. In 1773 he entered the service of the Honourable East India Company for one voyage only, during which he made surveys along the west coast of Sumatra, among others. He joined the Company again in 1777 and was appointed Commander of the ship Royal Admiral, in which he undertook four voyages to the East during the next ten years. On his first voyage, in 1778, another East Indiaman that was accompanying him, the Colebrook, struck a rock off the Cape. This prompted Huddart to compile a chart of the Cape Peninsula and False Bay and to try and find the rock. He and his son narrowly escaped drowning when the boat they were working in overturned in the surf. The resulting large-scale chart, A plan of Cape Bona Esperance with False Bay, was published in London in 1794. It contains a legend that describes False Bay in some detail, as well as silhouettes of the mountains along the Cape Peninsula.
During all four his voyages Huddart was engaged in hydrographic and astronomical pursuits, especially surveys of coasts and ports. Among others he produced charts of Sumatra and part of the coast of India. Back in England he compiled The coastal pilot, for Great-Britain and Ireland (London, 1787-1794). He retired in 1788 and settled in London, where he erected an observatory to make astronomical observations, but also remained engaged in surveys and engineering works. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1791. Three years later he published an improved, comprehensive guide for mariners, The Oriental navigator; or, new directions for sailing to and from the East Indies (London, 1794). Comprising two large volumes of charts and plans, it was based on the journals and observations of various officers in the employ of the Honourable East India Company, and the latest edition of the French Le Neptune oriental (originally compiled by D'Apres de Mannevillette* in 1745). A third, enlarged edition appeared in 1816.
After his retirement Huddart invented a method to distribute the strain in a rope equally among its yarns during manufacture. He entered into business using this method and made a fortune. In 1796 he made a detailed study and wrote a report on the effects of atmospheric refraction on the appearance of terrestrial objects and the dip of the sea horizon. His only surviving son, also named Joseph, published a Memoir of the late Joseph Huddart in 1821.