HOOKER, William Jackson

1785 - 1865

William Jackon Hooker

Born at Norwich, Norfolk on 6 July 1785, son of Joseph Hooker of Exeter. Educated at the high school of Norwich and on leaving his independent means enabled him to travel and taking up as a recreation the study of natural history, especially ornithology and entomology. On the recommendation of Sir James Edward Smith he subsequently confined his attention to botany and at the suggestion of Sir Joseph Banks, his first botanical expedition in the summer of 1809, was to Iceland. The specimens he collected, along with his notes and drawings, were destroyed by fire on the homeward voyage; an incident in which he nearly lost his life. A good memory enabled him to publish an account of the island, its inhabitants and flora, and his 'Tour in Iceland' (1809), was privately circulated in 1811. In 1815 he married Maria Dawson Turner, eldest daughter of Dawson Turner, banker, of Great Yarmouth. Settling at Halesworth, Suffolk, he devoted himself to the formation of his herbarium, which became of worldwide renown among botanists. In 1816 the 'British Jungermanniae', his first scientific work, was published being succeeded by a new edition of William Curtis's 'Flora Londinensis', for which he wrote the descriptions (1817-1828) and by his 'Musci Exotici' (1818-1820), devoted to new foreign mosses and other cryptogamic plants. In 1820 he accepted the regius professorship of botany in the University of Glasgow where he became popular as a lecturer and the following year he brought out the 'Flora Scotica', in which the natural method of arrangement of British plants was given with the artificial. He worked with the Glasgow botanist and lithographer Thomas Hopkirk to establish the Royal Botanic Institution of Glasgow and to lay out and develop the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Hooker succeeded in convincing the British government that botanists should be appointed to their expeditions. His herbarium received large and valuable additions from all parts of the globe and his position as a botanist was thus vastly improved. Hooker was made a Knight of Hanover in 1836, and in 1841 appointed director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in succession to William Townsend Aiton. Under his direction the gardens were expanded from 10 to 75 acres, with an arboretum of 270 acres, with many new glass-houses being erected, and a museum of economic botany established. Hooker was engaged on the 'Synopsis Filicum' with John Gilbert Baker when he contracted a throat infection then epidemic at Kew and he died on 12 August 1865 and buried at St Anne's Church, Kew. He was succeeded at Kew Gardens by his son Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, a rare example of an outstanding man succeeded in his post by an equally outstanding son. Ten of his etchings are in the Reeve Collection




Works by This Painter