Dalzell, Nicol Alexander (DNB00)

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DALZELL, NICOL ALEXANDER (1817–1878), botanist, born at Edinburgh on 21 April 1817, was a member of the Carnwath family. He was educated at Edinburgh High School, and studied divinity under Chalmers. He proceeded M.A. at Edinburgh University in 1837. His love of science induced him to give up the intention of entering the ministry. He was one of the earliest members of the Botanical Society in Edinburgh. In 1841 he visited Bombay and was appointed assistant commissioner of customs. He still pursued his botanical studies, contributing frequently to Sir W. Hooker's ‘Journal of Botany’ and to the ‘Proceedings’ of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh. He became forest ranger of Scinde, and, on the retirement of Dr. Gibson, conservator of forests, Bombay. In 1849 he communicated to the Bombay Asiatic Society's ‘Journal’ a paper entitled ‘Indications of a New Genus of Plants of the Order Anacardieæ.’ His ‘Contributions to the botany of Western India,’ which were published through Sir William Hooker, were commenced in 1850; they extended over a considerable period, and form the most complete account of the remarkable flora of that district. In 1861 he published ‘The Bombay Flora,’ which bore also the name of Dr. Gibson, who volunteered to bear the expense of publication. It is the only general descriptive work on the vegetation of Western India. This publication contains the names of upwards of two hundred plants, scientifically named and described, for the first time, by Dalzell himself. In 1857 he published in ‘Hooker's Journal of Botany’ ‘Observations on Cissus quadrangularis of Linnæus.’ He also published a pamphlet upon the effects of the denudation of forests in limiting the rainfall, which is highly praised in Forsyth's ‘ Highlands of India.’ His health suffered from jungle malaria, and he retired upon a pension in 1870. Dalzell was distinguished as a forest officer by his strict attention to the higher duties of his office. His services to the department, to his subordinates, and to the scientific world are noticed in the highest terms by Sir Joseph Hooker, who states that his knowledge and the fidelity of his descriptions were so remarkable that he was selected as one of the intended authors of the ‘Flora of British India,’ now in course of publication by the Indian government. He died at Edinburgh in January 1878, leaving a widow and six children.

[Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers, Hooker's Journal of Botany, vols. ii. iii. iv.; Transactions of the Linnean Society; Athenæum, 2 Feb. 1878, p. 162; communication from Mrs. Dalzell.]

R. H-t.