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William Jackson Hooker

Sir William Jackson Hooker (July 6, 1785 - August 12, 1865) was an English botanist.

Hooker was born in Norwich. His father, Joseph Hooker of Exeter, a member of the same family as the celebrated Richard Hooker, devoted much of his time to the study of German literature and the cultivation of curious plants. The son was educated at the high school of Norwich, on leaving which his independent means enabled him to travel and to take up as a recreation the study of natural history, especially ornithology and entomology. He subsequently confined his attention to botany, on the recommendation of Sir James Edward Smith, whom he had consulted respecting a rare moss.

His first botanical expedition was made in Iceland, in the summer of 1809, at the suggestion of Sir Joseph Banks; but the natural history specimens which he collected, with his notes and drawings, were lost on the homeward voyage through the burning of the ship, and the young botanist himself had a narrow escape with his life. A good memory, however, aided him to publish an account of the island, and of its inhabitants and flora (Tour in Iceland, 1809), privately circulated in 1811, and reprinted in 1813.

In 1810-1811 he made extensive preparations, and sacrifices which proved financially serious, with a view to accompany Sir Robert Brownrigg to Ceylon, but the disturbed state of the island led to the abandonment of the projected expedition. In 1814 he spent nine months in botanizing excursions in France, Switzerland and northern Italy, and in the following year he married the eldest daughter of Mr Dawson Turner, banker, of Great Yarmouth.

Settling at Halesworth, Suffolk, he devoted himself to the formation of his herbarium, which became of world-wide renown among botanists. In 1816 the British Jungermanniae, his first scientific work, was published. This was succeeded by a new edition of William Curtis's Flora Londinensis, for which he wrote the descriptions (1817-1828); by a description of the Plantae cryptogamicae of Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland; by the Muscologia , a very complete account of the mosses of Great Britain and Ireland, prepared in conjunction with Thomas Taylor (1818); and by his Musci exotici (2 vols., 1818-1820), devoted to new foreign mosses and other cryptogamic plants.

In 1820 he accepted the regius professorship of botany in Glasgow University where he soon became popular as a lecturer, his style being both clear and ready. The following year he brought out the Flora Scotica, in which the natural method of arrangement of British plants was given with the artificial.

It was mainly by Hooker's exertions that botanists were appointed to the government expeditions. While his works were in progress his herbarium received large and valuable additions from all parts of the globe, and his position as a botanist was thus vastly improved. He was made a knight of Hanover in 1836 and in 1841 he was appointed director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on the resignation of William Aiton. Under his direction the gardens expanded from 10 to 75 acres, with an arboretum of 270 acres, many new glass-houses were erected, and a museum of economic botany was established. He was engaged on the Synopsis filicum with John Gilbert Baker when he was attacked by a throat disease then epidemic at Kew.

He was succeeded at kew by his son Joseph Dalton Hooker.

Other works

Hooker prepared or edited many works, the more important being the following:


This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.