Baxter, William (d.1871) (DNB00)

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BAXTER, WILLIAM (d. 1871), botanist, was appointed curator of the Oxford botanic garden in 1813, and retained the post until about 1854, when he was succeeded by his son, W. H. Baxter. He greatly raised the character of the Oxford garden, and established a library for the use of Oxford gardeners, of which Dr. Daubeney, then professor of botany, was president. In 1817 he was admitted an associate of the Linnean Society. Although not a voluminous writer, he contributed to Loudon's ‘Gardeners' Magazine’ and other periodicals; his chief work, however, was ‘British Phænogamous Botany, or Figures and Descriptions of the Genera of British Flowering Plants,’ in 6 vols. 8vo (1834–43), the drawings of which, by various artists, are mostly well executed, though of unequal merit, while the letterpress, for which Baxter was responsible, is carefully compiled and contains some original information. He devoted much attention to the smaller cryptogams, and prepared and distributed a series of leaf-fungi with a printed ticket attached to each, giving information as to name, place, &c. This was noteworthy at a time when the study of these lower forms was in its infancy. His help is acknowledged by many contemporary authors. He is described by Loudon as ‘one of the most modest and unassuming of men;’ but ‘no one ever came in contact with him,’ says another writer, ‘without being impressed by his amiable disposition, his great knowledge, his extraordinary memory, and his willingness to oblige.’ From the time of his retirement from Oxford Baxter did nothing which brought him into public notice, and when he died at Oxford, 1 Nov. 1871, in his eighty-fourth year, his name had become ‘a tradition of the past rather than a fact of the present.’

[Gardeners' Chronicle, 1871, 1426; Gardeners' Magazine, x. (1834), 110–13.]

J. B.