Roxburgh, William, 1751-1815

Alternative names
Birth 1751-06-29
Death 1815-04-10

Biographical notes:

William Roxburgh was born at Underwood, Craigie, in Ayrshire, on 3 June 1751. He was educated at the village school and then studied botany at Edinburgh University. In 1766 he became a surgeon's mate on a vessel of the East India Company and made several voyages to India before being appointed as an Assistant Surgeon in Chennai (then known as Madras), working in the General Hospital in the city. He became a full Surgeon in 1780 and was stationed in Samulcotta in 1781. There he began cultivating plants and making a large botanical collection which he sketched and made notes on their local use. Roxburgh became the East India Company's botanist in Karnataka. In 1791 he began sending plants back to Britain and by 1794 nearly five hundred had been sent. Many of these were selected by Sir Joseph Banks for the richly illustrated volume Plants of the Coast of the Coromandel 1795. In 1793, Roxburgh became Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden. In 1813 his health failed him and he retired to Capetown, South Africa, and then to St. Helena, and finally to England. William Roxburgh died in Edinburgh on 18 February 1815.

From the guide to the Drawings of a Collection of East Indian Plants, 19th century, (Edinburgh University Library)

Epithet: Dr; Curator of the Botanical Gardens at Calcutta; botanist; surgeon

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000244.0x000103

Epithet: MD; of Add MS 33977

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000244.0x000116


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  • Botany
  • Botany--Manuscripts
  • Botany--Early works to 1800
  • Botanists
  • Mahogany--Early works to 1800


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  • India, Asia (as recorded)
  • India, Asia (as recorded)
  • Jamaica, Central America (as recorded)
  • India, Asia (as recorded)
  • Mannheim, Baden (as recorded)
  • Dublin, Ireland (as recorded)