Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Watson, Hewett Cottrell (England 1804-1881)

Watson led a fairly unremarkable life (he only once traveled outside of Britain), yet became regarded as an authority on English botany after in early life cultivating strong interests in phrenology and evolutionary theory. Wealthy enough after an inheritance to not need a profession, he fell into an involvement with phrenology circa 1825 that only ended in 1840 when he failed as owner and editor to make the Phrenological Journal a success. In the following years, and while his reputation as a botanist steadily grew, he began collecting evidence for, and defending, the idea of species transmutation; later Charles Darwin would acknowledge some considerable debt to Watson as a source. Watson's many writings on plant geography included a considerable number of innovations; for example, he organized incidence data by county-level aggregations, related environmental circumstances to distribution patterns, differentiated between natural and anthropogenic origins, and made effective use of the concepts of "station" and "habitat."

Life Chronology

--born in Firbeck, Yorkshire, England, on 9 May 1804.
--1821: begins law apprenticeship
--1825: abandons his law apprenticeship when he comes into an inheritance; turns to studies on botany and phrenology
--1828-1832: studies medicine in Edinburgh; meets and becomes friends with the brothers George and Andrew Combe
--1831-1832: senior president, Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh
--1832: begins publishing articles and guidebooks on botany
--1833: buys a house near London which remains his permanent residence from then on
--1834: made a fellow of the Linnean Society
--1835. publishes his Remarks on the Geographical Distribution of British Plants
--1836: publishes his Statistics of Phrenology
--1837: works as botany instructor at the Liverpool School of Medicine
--1837-1840: owner and editor of the Phrenological Journal
--1842: collects plants in the Azores
--1844: assists in the preparation of the London Catalogue of British Plants
--1845: publishes articles discussing Robert Chambers's evolutionary ideas as expressed in the latter's Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation
--1847-1860: issuance of the volumes of his Cybele Britannica
--1870: contributes botanical material to Frederick Du Cane Godman's Natural History of the Azores
--1873-1874: publishes his Topographical Botany in two volumes
--dies at Thames Ditton, Surrey, England, on 27 July 1881.

For Additional Information, See:

--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 14 (1976).
--Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 57 (2004).
--Taxonomic Literature, Vol. 7 (1988).
--Journal of the History of Biology, Vol. 37(2) ( 2004): 393-395.
--Journal of Botany, British and Foreign, Vol. 19 (1881): 257-265.
--Hewett Cottrell Watson: Victorian Plant Ecologist and Evolutionist (2003).
--Huntia, Vol. 3 (1979): 87-102.

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Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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