Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Bartram, John

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BARTRAM, John, botanist, b. near Darby, Pa., 23 March, 1699; d. in Kingsessing, Pa., 22 Sept., 1777. He acquired a knowledge of medicine and surgery, became interested in the study of plants, and was finally cited by Linnaeus as the greatest natural botanist in the world. In 1728 he founded the first botanical garden in the United States, at Kingsessing, on the banks of the Schuylkill, not far from Philadelphia. His enthusiasm for collecting led him to make numerous excursions through the then little explored regions of North America. In 1743 he visited the shores of Lake Ontario, and wrote “Observations on the Inhabitants, Climate, Soil, Rivers, Productions, Animals, and other Matters Worthy of Notice, made by Mr. John Bartram in his Travels from Pennsylvania to Onondaga, Oswego, and the Lake Ontario, in Canada” (London, 1751). During the winter of 1765-'6 he visited East Florida, and an account of this trip was published with his journal (London, 1766). He made extensive collections, and sent specimens of new and curious American plants to foreign botanists, who in return supplied him with books and apparatus. He secured the appointment of American botanist to George III., and was a member of several foreign scientific societies, as well as a contributor of papers to the “Philosophical Transactions,” London. See “Memoirs of John Bartram,” by William Bartram. See “Memorials of John Bartram and Humphrey Marshall,” by William Darlington (Philadelphia, 1849). — His son, William, botanist, b. in Kingsessing, Pa., 9 Feb., 1739; d. there, 22 July, 1823. He removed to North Carolina and there became engaged in business. This he abandoned before reaching the age of thirty, and, accompanying his father to Florida, settled on the banks of St. John's river, where for several years he cultivated indigo. In 1771 he returned to the botanical gardens, and subsequently devoted his attention almost entirely to botany. From 1773 till 1778 he travelled extensively through the southern states, in order to examine the natural products of the country. An account of his experiences, under the title of “Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the extensive Territories of the Muscogules or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Choctaws,” was published (Philadelphia, 1791, and London, 1792-'4). In 1782 he was elected professor of botany in the University of Pennsylvania, but declined the place on account of his health. In 1786 he became a member of the American philosophical society, and he was also connected with other scientific bodies. Mr. Bartram was the author of “Anecdotes of a Crow,” “Description of Certhia,” and “Memoirs of John Bartram.” In 1789 he wrote “Observations on the Creek and Cherokee Indians,” which was published in 1851 (“Transactions American Ethnological Society,” vol. iii.). He drew the illustrations in Barton's “Elements of Botany,” and many of the most curious and beautiful plants of North America were illustrated and first made known by him. He also published the most complete list of American birds previous to Alexander Wilson, whom he greatly assisted at the outset of his career. The engraving shows the Bartram homestead, on the Schuylkill.


Appletons' Bartram John - homestead.jpg