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By: Tim Robinson
286 pages, 150 illus
Considered by his 18th-century contemporaries to be `the greatest botanist since Linnaeus', this is the first full biography of `The Founding Father of Indian Botany', William Roxburgh.
Born in the mid 18th-century, William Roxburgh was brought up in the centre of the Edinburgh Enlightenment, with all the patronage and intellectual curiosity that this entailed. After joining the East India Company as an Assistant Surgeon on one of their ships, he joined the staff of the General Hospital at Madras. Soon, he was Company Naturalist, describing many species for the first time which inspired some beautiful watercolour drawings by Indian artists, copies of which were sent to Sir Joseph Banks at Kew.
Arising from his scientific work, he was appointed the first paid Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden in 1793, where he continued his previous experimental work as well as looking into the introduction of a wide range of crops. Always looking for ways to improve the lot of native workers, to reduce the impact of frequent famines, he suggested labour-intensive methods by developing local skills and introducing suitable plants that could be used for food.
With important work also on the botany of the Cape of Good Hope as well as St Helena, and significant contributions to the fields of meteorology, zoology and geology, Roxburgh's obituaries referred to him as the `greatest botanist since Linnaeus'.
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