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People & Organisations

Arnott, George Arnott Walker

  • GB/NNAF/P142840
  • Person
  • 1799-1868

Born Edinburgh 1799: died Glasgow 1868.
George Walker Arnott entered the University of Edinburgh aged 14 and took his MA degree in 1818, having already published learned articles on mathematics. He then studied law but abandoned it (due to a dislike of public speaking) in favour of botany, and in the early 1820s went to France to exchange views and excursions with the great French botanists, for a time working in the Paris herbaria. He became famous for his work on cryptogams. He was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1825 and in 1828 the genus Arnottia was named after him. Between 1830 and 1840 Arnott worked with Sir William Jackson Hooker building a reputation as a meticulous taxonomist. His descriptions of new plants from South America, India and Senegambia were published in various journals and he co-operated with Robert Wight in his Illustrations of Indian Botany. In 1837 the University of Aberdeen awarded him its LLD and in 1845 he was elected Regius Professor of Botany at Glasgow University. In 1850 he collaborated with Hooker on the sixth edition of 'British Flora'. At that time he studied and built up a collection of diatoms. Although ‘disinclined’ to publish, his obituary in the Journal of Botany notes that ‘his marvellous letters … to his numerous working correspondents’ made his scientific observations equally useful. He was also an enthusiastic curler and freemason.
Sources: DNB; Desmond's Dictionary; Jnl Bot 1868; Gard Chron 1868
by D.W.

Arthur, William

  • ART
  • Person
  • 1680-1716

William Arthur graduated in medicine in Leiden in 1707 and practised in Fife, becoming a member of the Edinburgh College of Physicians in 1714. He received the Royal Warrant of appointment to the offices of the King’s Botanist and Keeper of the physic garden at Holyrood in 1715. However despite the Warrant saying he was ‘skilled in botany’ there is no evidence of this and it is likely that he secured the posts through political influence, accessed through his marriage. He was more famous for his involvement in a chaotic and unsuccessful Jacobite plot to seize Edinburgh Castle in 1715 (as told in Walter Scott’s ‘Tales of a Grandfather’) after which he escaped to Rome where he died the following year of dysentery.
Sources: Fletcher and Brown ‘The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 1670-1970’; (R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists); (Deni Bown, ‘4 Gardens in One’)

Austin, Dr. William

  • AUS
  • Person
  • 1754-1793

Born Gloucestershire 1754; died London 1793
William Austin was a polymath. He initially studied botany at Oxford, graduating in 1776, and then medicine gaining his MD in 1783. However he also studied, and sometimes lectured in Hebrew, Arabic, Mathematics and Chemistry being elected professor in1785. In 1786 he moved from Oxford to London, building a lucrative medical practice while continuing his chemical studies. He was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, published papers for the Royal Society on ‘Heavy inflammable air’ and theorised (incorrectly) on the origin of kidney stones and hardening of the arteries.
Source: DNB

Balfour, Colonel Frederick Robert Stephen

  • FRS
  • Person
  • 1873-1945

Born Denbighshire 1873; died London 1945
Educated at Loretto School, Musselburgh and gaining a BA at Oxford University in 1896, Frederick Balfour was initially employed in his family firm in London. He travelled extensively on business and made several expeditions to the Pacific coast of North America, on one occasion staying there for 4 years, acquiring a deep knowledge of forest trees. He introduced the cultivation of several pines including Picea brewiana and developed the Arboretum at the family estate at Dawyck near Peebles, which he had inherited from his father in 1886. Dawyck was already a well established estate with trees dating back to the late seventeenth century. In 1916 Balfour was sent to France to liaise with the French Army over supplies of timber, being appointed Lieut. Colonel for the purpose. His interest in forestry continued after the war and he travelled extensively to supplement the Dawyck collection. With many business interests and directorships, Balfour was a member of the King’s Bodyguard for Scotland, Royal Company of Archers and a local Justice of the Peace and Vice Lieutenant of the county in Peeblesshire.
Sources: R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists’; Gardeners Chronicle 1945; RBGE obituary folder.

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