Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Courten, William (1642-1702)

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1354818Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 12 — Courten, William (1642-1702)1887Benjamin Daydon Jackson

COURTEN, WILLIAM (1642–1702), naturalist, grandson of Sir William Courten [q. v.], and son of William Courten, who died insolvent at Florence in 1655, was born in London on 28 March 1642. His mother was Catharine Egerton, daughter of John, first earl of Bridgewater. Courten seems to have had a good education. He travelled to Montpelier and there fell in with Tournefort and Sloane. It was here that he began his botanic studies. In 1663 he left to attend to his private affairs at home, probably on his attaining his majority. He lived in England till 1670 with his aunt, Lady Knightly, at Fawsley Lodge, Northamptonshire. After this he went abroad again for fourteen years. Much doubt hangs over his movements, but he is supposed to have spent some of the time at Montpelier. He was a close friend of William Sherard, afterwards consul at Smyrna and benefactor to the chair of botany at Oxford, other friends being Dr. Tancred Robinson, Martin Lister, Plukenet, Ilwyd the antiquary, and Sloane. During many years he lived under the assumed name of Charleton, and in 1684 he opened a suite of rooms in the Temple containing his museum, estimated then to be worth 50,000l. Sloane succeeded to this splendid collection, which forms no small part of the original foundation of the British Museum treasures. His dried plants are now at the Natural History Museum in Cromwell Road. Courten died at Kensington on 29 March 1702, and was buried there, with an epitaph written by Sir Hans Sloane. His name is perpetuated in Courtenia, a genus founded by Robert Brown upon a plant from Java.

[Kippis's Biog. Brit. iv. 334–52; Manuscripts in Brit. Mus. (Sloane).]

B. D. J.