ROXBURGH, William. Underwood near Craigie, Ayrshire 3. or 29.6.1751 — Edinburgh 18.2.1815. British (Scottish) Physician and Scientist in India, Pioneer of Indian Botany. Early years unclear (parents unknown), studied medicine and botany at Edinburgh. He joined the E.I.C.’s navy as surgeon’s mate in 1772. M.D. 1776 Edinburgh. From 1776 Assistant Surgeon in Madras medical service, 1780 Surgeon, 1781-93 in charge of Botanic Garden at Samulcotta near Coconada (Madras). He studied the flora of the Northern Sircars and became the E.I.C.’s botanist in the Carnatic. From 1793 until his retirement in 1813 he was the first Superintendent of the Botanic Garden near Calcutta and the Chief Botanist of the E.I.C. Retired in poor health and returned to Scotland. M.D. 1790 Aberdeen College. Three times married, with Mary Bonte (d. 17??), Mary Hütteman (d. 1804) and Mary Ann Boswell (1774-1859), and had with them one, eight and three children.
Roxburgh was the first to deal systematically with Indian botany and, unlike many later scholars, also duly noted the Indian names of plants. He was much interested in economical botany. On his way home 1813-14 he stopped at St.Helena for ten months and studied the local flora. Also collected meteorological data.
Publications: Plants of the Coast of Coromandel. 300 annotated drawings. 12 fasc. 1795-1820 (ed. by Joseph Banks, to whom he had sent these pictures).
– Ed. by W. Carey: Hortus Bengalensis, or, A catalogue of the plants growing in the … Botanic Garden at Calcutta. 5+12+105 p. Serampore 1814.
– Ed. by N. Wallich & W. Carey: Flora Indica; or, Descriptions of Indian Plants. 1-3. Serampore 1820-32.
– Articles in As.Res., Transactions of Linnaean Soc., etc.
Sources: G.S. Boulger, D.N.B. 49, 1897, 368-270; Buckland, Dictionary; *R. Desmond, Oxford D.N.B. 2004; *T. Robinson, William Roxburgh. The Founding Father of Indian Botany. Chichester 2008; Wikipedia with portrait; https://plants.jstor.org/stable/10.5555/al.ap.person.bm000007221; wives in geni.com.
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