Monday, June 30, 2014

Joseph Hooker, leading British botanist

It is the birthday of great 19th century British botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817), who was Charles Darwin’s closest friend, and was a sounding board as Darwin developed his theory of evolution. Hooker served as director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and helped establish it as a leading center for botanical research. With voyages to Antarctica, the Himalayas, India, Palestine, Morocco, and the western United States, Hooker built his own reputation as a botanical authority. He trained Walter Hood Fitch, who became a renowned botanical artist and illustrated many of Hooker’s works. Hooker’s best known work is the seven-volume Flora of British India (1872-1897). He also published the three-volume Flora Antarctica: the botany of the Antarctic voyage (1844-1859), Himalayan Journals (1855), and Handbook of the British flora (1858), a project started by acclaimed botanist George Bentham and completed by Hooker. The book is known in botanical circles as “Bentham & Hooker.”

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