The Beaufort scale was made a standard for ship's log entries on Royal Navy vessels in the late 1830s and was adapted to non-naval use from the 1850s, with scale numbers corresponding to cup anemometer rotations. In 1916, to accommodate the growth of steam power, the descriptions were changed to how the sea, not the sails, behaved and extended to land observations. Rotations to scale numbers were standardized only in 1923. George Simpson, Director of the UK Meteorological Office, was responsible for this and for the addition of the land-based descriptors.
The measure was slightly altered some decades later to improve its utility for meteorologists. Today, many countries have abandoned the scale and use the metric-based units m/s or KM/h instead, but the severe weather warnings given to public are still approximately the same as when using the Beaufort scale (source: wikipedia.org)