- GB/NNAF/P133784; VIAF ID: 52098074 (Personal); ISNI: 0000 0000 8382 4953
Regius Keeper between 1845 and 1879
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Regius Keeper between 1845 and 1879
Son of John Hutton Balfour, Isaac Bayley Balfour was Regius Keeper at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh between 1888 and 1922, specialising in Rhododendrons and Primulas and making improvements to the RBGE's teaching and laboratory facilities.
Born Fife 1630; died Edinburgh 1694
Brought up at the family seat, Balfour Castle in Fife, Andrew Balfour studied philosophy at St Andrews University graduating MA in about 1650. He spent several years in Paris studying medicine eventually graduating MD at Caen in 1661. Returning to London and having been presented to Charles II he acquired a position as a tutor to the earl of Rochester, accompanying him on a grand tour from 1661 to 1664. During his 15 years abroad Balfour acquired an extensive library of medical and natural history books, together with collections of antiquities, pictures, arms, instruments, plants, animals and fossils. In 1667 he returned to St Andrews, practising as a physician, before moving to Edinburgh to build up a medical practice there; it is claimed that he was the first doctor in Scotland to dissect the human body. In 1670, with his distant cousin and friend Robert Sibbald, he leased land for a small garden at St Anne’s Yards, Holyroodhouse, and later petitioned the town council for a larger plot adjacent to Trinity Hospital, in which were planted 2,000 non-indigenous species. He played a prominent role in Edinburgh’s learned society and opened his private museum collections, gallery and library to scholars. He was knighted in 1682 for his contribution to science and society and was active in establishing professorial chairs and in founding the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh, becoming president in 1685. He improved the infirmary and arranged publication of the first ‘Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia’ (1685) to which he contributed parts on materia medica. After his sudden death in the street in 1694 most of his collections were broken up and his library sold.
Sources: DNB; Fletcher and Brown ‘The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 1670-1970’; Deni Bown, ‘4 Gardens in One’; (R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists)
Armstrong was a lecturer in Chemistry in London and researched agricultural chemistry.
Born Perthshire 1799; died Hawaii 1834
David Douglas was apprenticed at the age of ten in the gardens of Scone Palace, Perthshire; in 1818 he became under-gardener at to Sir Robert Preston at Valleyfield near Culross, from where he moved to the botanical garden at Glasgow. There he attended the botanical lectures of William Hooker who he accompanied on several expeditions to the Highlands. Hooker recommended Douglas as a plant collector to the Horticultural Society of London and in 1823 he was sent to the eastern United States and Canada and then in 1825 to the Pacific North West where he spent two years in pursuit of new species of plants, birds and mammals along the Columbia River. Returning to England, his rich collection of live plants was greeted with great enthusiasm by the botanical world. In 1829 he returned to north west America, first exploring the interior of Oregon and Washington, then collecting along the Spanish mission trail in California. In 1833 he sailed to the Sandwich Islands, arriving in 1834 where he met his death on the slopes of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii when he fell into a pit trap and was gored by a wild bull. Douglas made over 200 introductions including the Douglas fir Pseudotsuga taxifolia and the sugar pine Pinus lambertiana. His introductions can be seen in many of great houses of Britain. Most of the ‘big trees’ at the Younger Botanic Garden, Benmore were introduced in the first half of the nineteenth century as a result of David Douglas’s explorations and some of Dawyck’s largest conifers were raised from Douglas’s original seed collections.
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists; Deni Bown, ‘4 Gardens in One’; Ann Lindsay and Syd House ‘The Life and Explorations of David Douglas’.
George Sherriff attended the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich and fought in the First World War in France in 1918, where he was gassed. In 1919 he was sent to India and served on the north-west frontier. In 1927 he was appointed British vice-consul in Kashgar, Chinese Turkestan and while there travelled widely. In 1929 he met Frank Ludlow and their shared interests in ornithology, travel and plants started a lifelong friendship. During the 1930s they went on a series of plant and bird collecting expeditions working eastward along the main Himalayan ranges. In 1933, for example, they travelled to Tibet, Nang-kartse, Gyantse and back to India making 500 gatherings of plants and seeds; their collections included 69 species of rhododendron, 15 new to science. Sherriff resumed his military service during the Second World War, first in Assam and later in Sikkim and in 1943 he succeeded Frank Ludlow in charge of British Mission in Lhasa. After the war he continued collecting in south east Tibet, again with Ludlow. In 1949 both retired from India and went a final expedition to Bhutan to gather alpine and temperate flora. George Sherriff funded virtually all his expeditions himself and, as well as collecting, took thousands of photographs. He was one of first plant collectors to send specimens in crates back by air to Kew, Edinburgh and Wisley and his best plant introductions were rhododendrons, primulas, and peonies. On retirement Sherriff bought an estate near Kirriemuir in Angus where he grew many Himalayan plants with great success. In his later years he served in the Home Guard, on the county council and as session clerk of his local church.
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists; obituary folder; H.R. Fletcher ‘A Quest for Flowers’.
Robert Kaye Greville was an English botanist, mycologist and bryologist. He was also an excellent illustrator.