Balfour, Andrew (DNB00)

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BALFOUR, Sir ANDREW (1630–1694), botanist, was born on 18 Jan. 1630 at Balfour Castle, Denmiln, Fifeshire; the youngest son of his parents. Sir Michael Balfour, and Joanna, daughter of James Durham of Pikerow. His eldest brother James [see Balfour, Sir James, 1600-1657] was thirty years his senior, the family consisting of five sons and nine daughters. He was baptised on the day of his birth, and his education was conducted in the parish school of Abdie, and afterwards at the university of St. Andrews; at the latter he began his study of natural history and medicine, and then came to Oxford. He spent some years in foreign travel; in France he studied in Paris, Montpellier, and Caen, also in Italy at Padua, but spent most time in Paris, studying medicine, anatomy, and botany, in the royal garden, of which Joncquet was then prefect. On his return, after taking his degree of M.D. at Caen on 20 Sept. 1661, he stayed long in London in the practice of his profession, Harvey, De Mayone, Glisson and Wharton being named as his compeers. He travelled as tutor to the Earl of Ross again on the continent, and spent four years in France and Italy, visiting Zanoni at Bologna, who showed him the unpublished plates of his 'Historia Plantarum,' and Torre at Padua. After fifteen years' travel abroad he returned to St. Andrews, where he recommenced the practice of medicine, but afterwards removed to Edinburgh. A year or two after his settlement at the latter place he began his botanic garden; procuring seeds from Dr. Robert Morison of Blois, and afterwards of Oxford, and M. Merchant of Paris, and others, he soon had more than a thousand species in cultivation. He founded the public botanic gardens at Edinburgh about 1680 by the good offices of Lord Patrick Murray of Levistone, and he transferred thither his own plants to the care of Sutherland, the first curator, who published a catalogue in 1683. On Lord Murray's death in 1671, the cost of maintenance fell upon Balfour and Sir Robert Sibbald, until the university granted an annual subsidy from the corporate funds. He died 10 Jan. 1694, aged 62, leaving his curiosities and manuscripts to Sibbald. After his death his son published at Edinburgh in 1700 'Letters writé to a Friend' [Lord Murray], containing excellent directions and advices for travelling through France and Italy. Sibbald published in 1699 a life of Sir Andrew and his brother Sir James, under the title of 'Memoria Balfouriana.'

[Sibbald's Memoria Balfouriana, Edin. 1699; Auctarium Musei Balfouriani e Museo Sibbaldiano, Edin. 1697; Pulteney's Sketches, ii. 3, Lond. 1790.]

B. D. J.