William Jackson Hooker

Sir William Jackson Hooker
William Jackson Hooker 1850s3.jpg
Hooker in the 1850s
Born(1785-07-06)6 July 1785
Died12 August 1865(1865-08-12) (aged 80)
Alma materNorwich School
Known forFounding the Herbarium at Kew
Scientific career
Author abbrev. (botany)Hook.
William Jackson Hooker Signature.svg

Sir William Jackson Hooker KH FRS FRSE FLS (6 July 1785 – 12 August 1865) was an English systematic botanist and organiser, and botanical illustrator. He held the post of Regius Professor of Botany at Glasgow University, and was Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He enjoyed the friendship and support of Sir Joseph Banks for his exploring, collecting and organising work. His son, Joseph Dalton Hooker, succeeded him to the Directorship of Kew Gardens.[1]


Hooker was born in Norwich. His father, Joseph Hooker of Exeter, a member of the same family as the celebrated theologian Richard Hooker, devoted much of his time to the study of German literature and the cultivation of curious plants. He was educated at Norwich School and afterwards took up as a recreation the study of natural history, especially ornithology and entomology.[2] He subsequently confined his attention to botany, on the recommendation of Sir James Edward Smith, whom he had consulted respecting a rare moss.

Hooker inherited enough money to be able to travel at his own expense. His first botanical expedition—at the suggestion of Sir Joseph Banks—was to Iceland, in the summer of 1809. 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. His good memory, however, aided him to publish an account of the island, and of its inhabitants and flora; his Tour in Iceland, 1809, was privately circulated in 1811[3] and reprinted in 1813.[4]

In 1810–1811 he made extensive preparations, and sacrifices which proved financially serious, with a view to accompany Sir Robert Brownrigg to Ceylon, but political upheaval led to the project being abandoned. In 1814 he spent nine months in botanizing excursions in France, Switzerland and northern Italy, and in the following year he married Maria Dawson Turner, the eldest daughter of Dawson Turner, banker, of Great Yarmouth, and sister-in-law of Francis Palgrave.

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. 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 Britain and Ireland, prepared in conjunction with Thomas Taylor (1818);[5] 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 the University of Glasgow where he soon became popular as a lecturer; his style was 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. 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. In 1815, he was made a corresponding member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and, in 1833, his status was changed to that of foreign member. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1823.[6]

Hooker succeeded in convincing the British government that botanists should be appointed to their 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 the Royal Guelphic Order and a Knight Bachelor in 1836, and in 1841 he was appointed director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on the resignation of William Townsend Aiton.[7] Under his direction the gardens expanded from 10 to 75 acres (4.0 to 30.4 ha), with an arboretum of 270 acres (1.1 km2), 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 contracted a throat infection then epidemic at Kew. He died in 1865 and is 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.

Standard author abbreviation


Hooker in 1863–64
  • Exotic Flora, indicating such of the specimens as are deserving cultivation (3 vols., 1822–1827)
  • Account of Sabine's Arctic Plants (1824)
  • Catalogue of Plants in the Glasgow Botanic Garden (1825)
  • Botany of Parry's Third Voyage (1826)
  • Curtis's Botanical Magazine (38 vols., 1827–1865)
  • Icones Filicum, in concert with Dr R. K. Greville (meaning "Illustrations of Ferns"; 2 vols., 1829–1831)
  • British Flora, of which several editions appeared, undertaken with Dr G. A. W. Arnott, &c. (1830)
  • British Flora Cryptogamia (1833)
  • Characters of Genera from the British Flora (1830)
  • Flora Boreali-Americana (2 vols., 1840), being the botany of British North America collected in Sir John Franklin's voyage
  • The Journal of Botany (4 vols., 1830–1842)
  • Companion to the Botanical Magazine (2 vols., 1835–1836)
  • Icones Plantarum (meaning "Illustrations of Plants"; 10 vols., 1837–1854)
  • Botany of Beechey's Voyage to the Pacific and Behring's Straits (with Dr Arnott, 1841)[9]
  • Genera Filicum (meaning "The Genera of Ferns"; 1842), from the original coloured drawings of F. Bauer, with additions and descriptive letterpress
  • The London Journal of Botany (7 vols., 1842–1848)
  • Notes on the Botany of the Antarctic Voyage of the Erebus and Terror (1843)
  • Species Filicum (meaning "The Species of Ferns"; 5 vols., 1846–1864), the standard work on this subject
  • A Century of Orchidaceous Plants (1849)
  • Hooker's Journal of Botany and Kew Garden Miscellany (9 vols., 1849–1857)
  • Niger Flora (1849)
  • Victoria Regia (1851)
  • A Century of Ferns (1854)
  • Museums of Economic Botany at Kew (1855)
  • Filices Exoticae (meaning "Exotic Ferns"; 1857–1859)
  • The British Ferns (1861–1862)
  • A Second Century of Ferns (1860–1861).


  1. ^ Allen, Mea 1967. The Hookers of Kew 1785–1911. Joseph, London.
  2. ^ Stearn, William T. (December 1965). "The Self-Taught Botanists Who Saved the Kew Botanic Garden". Taxon. International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT). 14 (9): 294. doi:10.2307/1216740. JSTOR 1216740.
  3. ^ "Review of Travels in the Island of Iceland, during the summer of the Year 1810 by Sir George Steuart Mackenzie and Journal of a Tour in Iceland, in the Summer of 1809 by William Jackson Hooker". The Quarterly Review. 7: 48–92. March 1812.
  4. ^ Hooker, William Jackson (1813). Journal of a tour in Iceland, in the summer of 1809 (2nd ed.). London: Longman, Hurst, Orme, and Brown.
  5. ^ Boulger, George Simonds (1898). "Taylor, Thomas (d.1848)" . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 55. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  6. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter H" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  7. ^ Kew had formerly been a royal garden; Hooker was the first Director under its new state ownership. Turrill W.B. 1959. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, past and present. London.
  8. ^ IPNI.  Hook.
  9. ^ Hooker, Sir William Jackson; G. A. Walker Arnott, Esq. (1841). The Botany of Captain Beechey's voyage. Henry George Bohn.


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