Sole, William (DNB00)

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SOLE, WILLIAM (1741–1802), botanist, born at Thetford in the Isle of Ely in 1741, was the eldest son of John Sole by his wife Martha, daughter of John Rayner, banker, of Ely. The family, which derived its name (perpetuated in Sole Street, near Rochester) from Soules, near St. Lo in Normandy, was settled in East Kent during the reign of Richard I, and held the manor of Soles in the parish of Nonnington in that of Edward I. William Sole, grandson of John Sole, mayor of Faversham in 1444 (who raised a company of pikes against Jack Cade and received the thanks of the privy council), settled in the Isle of Ely about 1510, and was the ancestor of the botanist. The wife of another descendant, Joan Sole of Horton, was martyred at Canterbury on 31 Jan. 1556, and there are copper tokens struck by John Sole of Battersea in 1668.

The future botanist was educated at the King's School, Ely, and then apprenticed to a Dr. Cory of Cambridge. He afterwards accompanied his relative, Christopher Anstey [q. v.], the poet, to Bath, where he practised as a surgeon. On the foundation of the Linnean Society, in 1788, Sole was chosen one of its first associates, and carried on a long correspondence with John Pitchford of Norwich, the early friend of Sir James Edward Smith [q. v.], on the subject of mints. He drew up a manuscript flora of Bath in 1782. In 1798 he published his chief botanical work, ‘Menthæ Britannicæ,’ a folio of fifty-four pages, illustrated by twenty-four copper-plates, the critical accuracy of which is evidenced by the fact that several British mints still bear the names assigned to them by Sole. He also prepared an account of the principal English grasses and their agricultural uses, with specimens, which he presented to the Bath and West of England Agricultural Society in 1799, and the society presented him with a silver tankard. He died unmarried at Trim Street, Bath, on 7 Feb. 1802, and was buried at Bath-Easton. Sprengel commemorated him by the genus Solea, now merged in Viola. A miniature of him by Ford is in the possession of his great-nephew, the Rev. A. Baron Sole of Winchester.

[Private information.]

G. S. B.