Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Brown, Robert (Scotland 1773-1858)
Like many naturalists-to-be of his time, Brown's early adult years were
taken up by medical studies; during his late twenties he was mainly occupied
as a surgeon in the military. Happily, in 1800 an opportunity presented
itself to join the Matthew Flinders exploration expedition on the ship
Investigator, and for the next five years Brown found himself in
Australasian lands collecting botanical specimens. On returning to Britain
he then spent another five years consumed in their study, after which
he came into the employ of Sir Joseph Banks as a curator and assistant.
When Banks died in 1820, he left Brown his residence, an annuity, and
his botanical collection--which, also by plan, Brown donated to the British
Museum, working out an agreement whereby he could remain its permanent
keeper. But as he aged Brown's interest in descriptive work on botanical
collections waned; even his four-part Plantę Javanicę Rariores
represented little more than an abstract of what might have been. The
inheritance from Banks kept Brown from having to teach or take on other
duties, so he let his personal interests be his guide. Microscopy, still
in its early years, was primary among these, and in fact his great skill
at this persuasion ultimately garnered him his two most famous discoveries:
the so-called "Brownian motion" of microparticles in liquids, and the
characteristics of the nucleus of plant cells.
--born in Montrose, Tayside, Scotland, on 21 December 1773.
--1791: reads paper before the Edinburgh Natural History Society
--1793: earns medical degree from Edinburgh University
--1795-1800: surgeon's mate with the Fifeshire Regiment of Fencibles
--1801-1805: naturalist attached to Matthew Flinders' Australasian
expedition on the ship Investigator
--1805-1810: research and reporting on the expedition's collections
--1806-1822: librarian for the Linnean Society
--1809: reads his paper "On
the Proteaceae of Jussieu" to the Linnean Society
--1810: made a fellow of the Royal Society of London
--1810: publishes his paper "On the Asclepiadeae" and the first and only
volume of his Prodromus
Florae Novae Hollandiae
--1810-1827: curator of the Sir Joseph Banks' library and collections
--1822: elected to the Linnean Society
--1827-1858: keeper of the British Museum's botanical collection
--1828: privately publishes his pamphlet A
Brief Account of Microscopical Observations Made in the Months of June,
July, and August 1827, On the Particles Contained in the Pollen of Plants;
and on the General Existence of Active Molecules in Organic and Inorganic
Bodies, describing what is now called Brownian motion
--1831: privately publishes his pamphlet Observations
on the Organs and Mode of Fecundation in Orchideae and Asclepiadeae,
which contains the first descriptions of the nucleus of plant cells
--1832: D.C.L., Oxford University
--1838-1852: publishes his Plantæ Javanicæ Rariores
in four parts, with John Joseph Bennett & Thomas Horsfield
--1849-1853: president of the Linnean Society
--dies at London on 10 June 1858.
--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 2 (1970).
--Taxonomic Literature Suppl. III (1995).
--Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 8 (2004).
of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. 3 (1859): 237-241.
--Jupiter Botanicus: Robert Brown of the British Museum (1985).
Copyright 2007 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.
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