Dickson, James (DNB00)

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DICKSON, JAMES (1737?–1822), botanist, was born at Kirke House, Traquair, Peeblesshire, of poor parents, in 1737 or 1738, and began life in the gardens of Earl Traquair. While still young he went to Jeffery's nursery-garden at Brompton, and in 1772 started in business for himself in Covent Garden. Sir Joseph Banks threw open his library to him, and he acquired a wide knowledge of botany, and especially of cryptogamic plants. Sir J. E. Smith bears testimony in an epitaph (Memoir and Correspondence of Sir J. E. Smith, ii. 234) to his ‘powerful mind, spotless integrity, singular acuteness and accuracy,’ and L'Héritier dedicated to him the genus Dicksonia, among the tree-ferns. Dickson made several tours in the highlands in search of plants between 1785 and 1791, that of 1789 being in company with Mungo Park, whose sister became the second wife of the botanist. He published between 1785 and 1801 four ‘Fasciculi Plantarum Cryptogamicarum Britanniæ,’ 4to, containing in all four hundred descriptions; between 1789 and 1799, ‘A Collection of Dried Plants, named on the authority of the Linnæan Herbarium,’ in seventeen folio fascicles, each containing twenty-five species; in 1795, a ‘Catalogus Plantarum Cryptogamicarum Britanniæ;’ and between 1793 and 1802, his ‘Hortus Siccus Britannicus,’ in nineteen folio fascicles, besides various memoirs in the ‘Transactions of the Linnean Society.’ Dickson in 1788 became one of the original members of this society, and in 1804 was one of the eight original members and a vice-president of the Horticultural Society. He died at Broad Green, Croydon, Surrey, 14 Aug. 1822, his wife, a son, and two daughters surviving him. His portrait by H. P. Briggs, R.A. (1820), has been lithographed.

[Trans. Hort. Soc. v. Appendix, pp. 1–3; Biog. Universelle, vol. lxii.; Royal Society's Catalogue, ii. 285.]

G. S. B.