Irvine, Alexander (1793-1873) (DNB00)

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IRVINE, ALEXANDER (1793–1873), botanist, son of a well-to-do farmer, was born at Daviot, Aberdeenshire, in 1793. He was educated at the grammar school at Daviot and at Marischal College, Aberdeen, which he left in 1819 to engage in private tuition. In 1824 he came to London in pursuit of the same profession. He afterwards acted as schoolmaster at Albury, in London, at Bristol, and at Guildford. He finally opened a school in 1851 at Chelsea. For eight or ten years toward the close of his life he held a ministerial office in the Irvingite church at White Notley, Essex, but did not reside there. He died in Upper Manor Street, Chelsea, on 13 May 1873, and was buried in Brompton cemetery.

Irvine interested himself in botany at an early age, and on his first visit to London (1824) he made extensive collections in the surrounding country. John Stuart Mill and William Pamplin often accompanied him in his botanical excursions. A manuscript catalogue of over six hundred species, which he found within a two-mile radius of Hampstead Heath, was compiled by him between 1825 and 1834. After contributing to Loudon's ‘Magazine of Natural History,’ he published in 1838, while at Albury, his so-called ‘London Flora,’ the first part of which includes plants from all the south-eastern counties and the second part from the whole of Britain. A new edition is dated 1846. Irvine was in the habit of making long summer excursions in Wales, Scotland, or England, mostly on foot, and became a contributor to the old series of the ‘Phytologist.’ On its cessation at the death of the editor (George Luxford) in 1854, Irvine edited a new series, which was carried on through six volumes, at a pecuniary loss, from May 1855 to July 1863, when Pamplin, the publisher, retired from business. With the earlier numbers of this magazine were given away some sheets of a descriptive work on British botany. This material Irvine incorporated in his most comprehensive work, the ‘Illustrated Handbook of British Plants,’ a popular manual, issued in five parts in 1858. Always endeavouring to popularise the study of his favourite science, he started in November 1863 the ‘Botanist's Chronicle,’ a penny monthly periodical. This he circulated with a catalogue of second-hand books which he had for sale. It only ran, however, to seventeen numbers. In addition to botany, Irvine made a close study of the Scriptures, and left behind him manuscript collections of proverbs and folk-lore.

[Journal of Botany, 1873, p. 222; Gardeners' Chronicle, 1873, p. 1017.]

G. S. B.