Trimen, Henry (DNB00)

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TRIMEN, HENRY (1843–1896), botanist, fourth and youngest son of Richard and Mary Ann Esther Trimen, was born in Paddington, London, on 26 Oct. 1843. He began to form an herbarium while still at King's College school, and entered the medical school of King's College in 1860. After spending one winter at Edinburgh University, he graduated M.B. with honours at the university of London in 1865. Shortly afterwards, during an epidemic of cholera, he acted as medical officer in the Strand district; but his inclinations were obviously towards botany rather than medicine. He joined the Botanical Society of Edinburgh in 1864, took an active part in the Society of Amateur Botanists and the Botanical Exchange Club, and in 1869 became an assistant in the botanical department of the British Museum. Devoted from the first to the study of critical groups of plants, such as the docks and knot-grasses, he in this year added to the list of British species the smallest of flowering plants, a minute duckweed; and, in conjunction with Mr. William Thiselton Dyer (now director of the Royal Gardens, Kew), published the ‘Flora of Middlesex,’ upon which they had been engaged from 1866, a work which has ever since been regarded as the model for county floras. After having for some time assisted Dr. Berthold Seemann with the 'Journal of Botany,' Trimen became assistant editor in 1870, and on Seemann's death in 1871 succeeded him as editor. From 1875 to 1880 he issued, in conjunction with Professor Robert Bentley, his second important work, 'Medicinal Plants,' which appeared in forty-two parts, and contains coloured figures of most of the species in the 'Pharmacopœia.' Trimen acted for many years as lecturer on botany at St. Mary's Hospital; but in 1879 he was appointed to succeed George Henry Kendrick Thwaites [q. v.] as director of the botanical gardens at Peradeniya, Ceylon. Besides a thorough rearrangement of the plants in these gardens in scientific order, and much work at economic botany, especially quinology, which is recorded in his annual official reports, Trimen diligently explored the island, collecting materials for a flora. In 1885 he published a catalogue of the plants of the island with their vernacular names, and in 1893 the first volume of his magnum opus, 'A Handbook to the Flora of Ceylon.' This work, which is somewhat misnamed, since it occupies several bulky volumes, he did not live to complete; but his materials have been placed in the hands of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, who has now nearly finished the work. Trimen died unmarried at Kandy on 16 Oct. 1896, and was buried near his predecessor, Dr. Thwaites, in the Mahaiyawa cemetery. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 7 June 1888, and was also a fellow of the Linnean Society. His name was given by Dr. King of Calcutta to a magnificent Cingalese banyan-like species of fig, Ficus Trimeni. In addition to the three important works above mentioned, fifty papers by him are enumerated in the Royal Society's 'Catalogue of Scientific Papers.'

[Memoir by Mr. James Britten in Journal of Botany, 1896, pp. 489-94, with a portrait from a photograph.]

G. S. B.