Botanists and naturalists

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Many botanists and naturalists were also doctors/surgeons.

Historical background



Edward Green Balfour

Edward Green Balfour 1813-1889 (Wikipedia), appointed Assistant Surgeon in the Madras Medical Service and sailed for India 1834. Retired 1876 as Surgeon General of Madras Presidency.

Samuel Browne

Samuel Browne was listed as a Principal Surgeon in Madras 1688-1697 when he was discharged. Samuel Brown died 21 December 1698 at Madras, according to this cemetery record. After his death the following articles were published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (London):

"An Account of part of a Collection of Curious Plants and Drugs" gathered by Mr Samuel Brown , a Physician at Fort St George in the East Indies There is a subsequent title "Mr.Sam Brown His First Book Of East India Plants" Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 1700 vol. 22 no. 260-276 579-594 "Second Book" Phil. Trans. 1700 vol. 22 no. 260-276 699-721 'Third Book' page 859 (page 18 of the pdf) describes some animals sent by Mr Edward Bulkley, Surgeon from Fort St George Phil. Trans. 1700 vol. 22 no. 260-276 843-862 "Fourth Book" Phil. Trans. 1700 vol. 22 no. 260-276 843-862 "Fifth Book" Phil. Trans. 1700 vol. 22 no. 260-276 1007-1029 "Sixth Book" Phil. Trans. 1702 vol. 23 no. 277-288 1055-1068 "Seventh Book" Phil. Trans. 1702 vol. 23 no. 277-288 1251-1566 "Eighth Book" Phil. Trans. 1702 vol. 23 no. 277-288 1450-1460. However, there is no mention of Mr Sam.Brown for the final volume.

In 1693 Dr Samuel Browne was tried and aquitted by a Grand Jury:

“When Mr. Wheeler, Member of Council, Sea Customer and Chief Justice of Choultry in Chennai, died on August 28, 1693, Dr. Samuel Browne, accepted in writing that due to his fateful mistake, pearl was powdered in a stone mortar wherein arsenic had been beaten before and the mixture was given to Mr. Wheeler as physic who showed the symptom of poison before death. Dr. Samuel Browne and his servant were committed to custody. Dr. Edward Bulkley, the surgeon of the hospital was asked to conduct an autopsy on the body of Mr. Wheeler opined that the suddenness of his death, and the severe symptoms he had laboured under before he died, were greater arguments of poison received, than anything he could trace out by dissection. Dr. Samuel Browne was tried and acquitted by the Grand Jury when the Bill of Ignoramus was brought in. There was dissatisfaction at this result and many thought that a case of criminal negligence had been made out.” From "State Control of Medical Malpractice" by Dr. K. Mathiharan (Published in Law & Medicine, (An Annual Publication of the Institute of Law and Ethics in Medicine, National Law School of India University, Bangalore) Volume 4, 1998 at 88-92)

Edward Bulkley

Dr Edward Bulkley was a Principal Surgeon 1692-1709 when he transferred to the Civil Service as Member of Council. He resigned in 1713 and died August 1714 at Madras according to this cemetery record. He is mentioned in the "Third Book of Samuel Brown" (see above) and also on this page from the Linnean Society of London website, collecting plants in Bengal and Burma 1702-8, (where the spelling Bulkeley is used). He is probably the Mr Buckly, Chief Surgeon at Fort St George who sent a collection of Chinese medical instruments to the Royal Society, mentioned in this article Phil. Trans. 1 January 1698 vol. 20 no. 236-247 390-392. The autopsy mentioned above is the first recorded medico-legal autopsy performed in India.

Francis Buchanan–Hamilton

Francis Buchanan–Hamilton 1762-1829. (Wikipedia) He was in the Bengal Medical Service from 1794 to 1815. He succeeded William Roxburgh to become the Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanical Garden in 1814, but had to return to Britain in 1815 due to ill health.
A journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Canara, and Malabar Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 by Francis Buchanan MD 1807 Google Books
An Account of the Kingdom of Nepal by Francis Hamilton (formerly Buchanan) MD 1819 Google Books

Francis Day

Francis Day (Wikipedia) is detailed in this pdf, having joined the Madras Medical Service in 1852. He wrote a 1863 book on Cochin, The land of the Permauls, or, Cochin, its past and its present. He became the most important writer on Indian fish, with his first book on the subject being Fishes of Malabar ( in 1865. Obituary in the British Medical Journal of 20 July 1889

William Griffith

William Griffith (Wikipedia) was a Civil Surgeon based in Tenasserim (later Malacca, where he died). He is profiled in “William Griffith 1810-1845” by WH Lang from Makers of British botany; a collection of biographies by living botanists (1913). Griffith himself wrote Journals of Travels in Assam, Burma, Bhootan, Afghanistan and the Neighbouring Countries in 1847 (, the initial section of which contains biographical details.

Johann Gerhard Koenig

Johann Gerhard Koenig 1728-1785 (Wikipedia) worked as a surgeon at the Danish colony at Tranquebar from 1768, as naturalist to the Nawab of Arcot from 1774 and as naturalist with the East India Company at Madras from 1778, according to this link about Tranquebar.

Patrick Russell

Patrick Russell 1726-1805 (Wikipedia) came to India in 1781. He had previously worked as a physician for the British Levant Company (Wikipedia) at its chief factory (trading post) at Aleppo (Syria) 1750-1771. In 1785 was appointed as the East India Company's 'Botanist and Naturalist' at Madras, following Koenig's death. He retired in 1789 and returned to England. Russell's viper the venomous snake, whose toxicity is second only to the cobra, is named after him.

A Continuation of an Account of Indian Serpents by Patrick Russell 1801 With Plates. This volume is Part Ii, and contains Appendices written in 1804 and 1809.

William Roxburgh

William Roxburgh 1751-1815. (Wikipedia) He joined the Madras Medical Service as an assistant surgeon in 1776 and became a surgeon in 1780. He succeeded Patrick Russell as Naturalist to the Madras Government. He later became Superintendant of the Calcutta Botanical Garden 1793-1814 where he was succeeded by Francis Buchan Hamilton.
Pages from History: The barometer and thermometer – his constant companions Madras Musings November 16-30 2009
Flora indica, or descriptions of Indian plants,Volume 1 by William Roxburgh 1820 Volume 2 1824 Volume 3 1832

Nathaniel Wallich

Nathaniel Wallich 1786-1854 (Wikipedia) (Also spelt Wallick in the East-India Register) He was a Danish Surgeon at the Danish settlement of Serampore, near Calcutta from 1808. He became an Assistant Surgeon in the Bengal Medical Service from 1814. He followed Francis Buchan-Hamilton as Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanical Garden, a position he held until he retired in 1846.

Robert Wight

Robert Wight 1796-1872 (Wikipedia). He joined the Madras Medical Service in 1819 and was appointed Naturalist in 1826.


Georges Guerrard-Samuel Perrottet

Georges Perrottet took charge as Director of the Jardin Botanique de Pondichéry, JBP) (Botanic Garden of Pondicherry) in 1840 and held this office until he died in 1870. Perrottet enriched the garden by introducing several plants that have been shown to bear either economic importance to humans or had the potential of being useful.

Johann Peter Rottler

Missionary (1749-1836). "Pages from History: Documenting the flora of the Coromandel" by Dr A Raman Madras Musings July 16-31, 2009. Scroll to the bottom of the page

Historical books online

  • Flora Indica; Or, Descriptions of Indian Plants by William Roxburgh 1832 edition Google Books. Volume I, Volume II, Volume III
    • Roxburgh's Flora Indica. This web site brings together William Roxburgh's three-volume text-only Flora Indica published posthumously in 1832, with the illustrations he commissioned of most of the plants he described. Kew Gardens