Robinson, Tancred (DNB00)

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ROBINSON, Sir TANCRED (d. 1748), physician and naturalist, was born in Yorkshire, apparently between 1655 and 1660. He was the second son of Thomas Robinson (d. 1676), a Turkey merchant, and his wife Elizabeth (d. 1664), daughter of Charles Tancred of Arden, but he often spelt his own name Tankred. He was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, graduating M.B. in 1679. He then travelled for some years abroad, and, with Hans Sloane, attended the lectures of Tournefort and Duverney at Paris. The first of the seventeen letters by him to John Ray printed in the ‘Philosophical Letters’ (1718) is dated from Paris in 1683. In September of the same year he wrote from Montpellier, where he visited Magnol; and, after staying at Bologna, where he met Malpighi, and in Rome and Naples, he proceeded, in 1684, to Geneva and Leyden. On his way home he was robbed of objects he had collected. In August 1684 he was in London, and invited Ray to lodge in his ‘quiett chamber near the Temple;’ Ray at a later period speaks of him as ‘amicorum alpha.’ From Montpellier he had written to Martin Lister the letter on the Pont de Saint-Esprit on the Rhine, which was printed as one of his first contributions to the ‘Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society’ in June 1684, and in the same year he was elected a fellow of the society. He became M.D. of Cambridge in 1685, and fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1687, serving as censor in 1693 and 1717. He was appointed physician in ordinary to George I, and was knighted by him. Robinson died at an advanced age on 29 March 1748. He married Alethea, daughter of George Morley, and left a son William.

Though his letters and papers deal with natural history generally, he paid particular attention to plants, and was styled by Plukenet in 1696 (Almagestum, p. 11) ‘vir de re herbariâ optime meritus.’ There is evidence that he assisted both James Petiver and Samuel Dale in the latinity of their scientific works, while Ray repeatedly acknowledges his assistance, especially in his ‘Historia Plantarum’ (1686) and ‘Synopsis Stirpium’ (1690). Robinson was mainly instrumental in securing the publication of Ray's ‘Wisdom of God in Creation,’ and suggested the ‘Synopsis Animalium’ and the ‘Sylloge Stirpium Europæarum.’ His own contributions to the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ include: 1. ‘An Account of the four first volumes of the “Hortus Malabaricus,”’ in Nos. 145–214. 2. ‘Description, with a Figure, of the Bridge of St. Esprit,’ vol. xiv. No. 160, p. 584 (1684). 3. ‘The Natural Sublimation of Sulphur from the Pyrites and Limestone, at Ætna, Vesuvius, and Solfatara,’ vol. xv. No. 169, p. 924 (1685). 4. ‘Observations on Boiling Fountains and Subterraneous Steams,’ vol. xv. Nos. 169 and 172, pp. 922, 1038 (1685). 5. ‘Lake Avernus,’ ib. No. 172. 6. ‘The Scotch Barnacle and French Macreuse,’ ib. p. 1036. 7. ‘Tubera Terræ or Truffles,’ vol. xvii. No. 204, p. 935 (1693). 8. ‘Account of Henry Jenkins, who lived 169 years,’ vol. xix. No. 221, p. 267 (1696). 9. ‘Observations made in 1683 and 1684 about Rome and Naples,’ vol. xxix. No. 349, p. 473. 10. ‘On the Northern Auroras, as observed over Vesuvius and the Strombolo Islands,’ ib. p. 483.

Robinson has been credited with ‘Two Essays by L.P., M.A., from Oxford, concerning some errors about the Creation, General Flood, and Peopling of the World, and … the rise of Fables …’ London, 8vo, 1695. But in a printed letter, in answer to remarks by John Harris (1667?–1719) [q. v.], addressed by Robinson to William Wotton, B.D., a college friend, Robinson solemnly denied the authorship of the ‘Two Essays,’ at the same time owning to having assisted the author, and to having written the introduction to Sir John Narborough's ‘Account of several late Voyages’ (London, 8vo, 1694), and the epistle dedicatory to the English translation of Father Louis Le Comte's ‘Memoirs and Observations made in … China’ (London, 8vo, 1697). Harris printed a rejoinder to Robinson.

[Foster's Yorkshire Pedigrees; Pulteney's Sketches of the Progress of Botany (1790), ii. 118–20; Life of Ray in Select Remains (1760); Philosophical Letters (1718); Munk's Coll. of Phys. (1878), vol. i.]

G. S. B.