Forster, Thomas Furly (DNB00)

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FORSTER, THOMAS FURLY (1761–1825), botanist, was born in Bond Street, Walbrook, 5 Sept. 1761, being the eldest son of Edward Forster the elder [q. v.] and Susanna his wife. His father retired to Walthamstow in 1764, and, being a great admirer of Rousseau, brought up his son on his principles. From his uncle Benjamin [q. v.] Forster early acquired a taste for antiquities, coins, prints, and plants. He was introduced to the Linnean system of classification, to which he always remained a firm adherent, by the Rev. John Dixon, and was further encouraged in his studies by Joseph Cockfield of Upton, Michael Tyson, Sir John Cullum, and Richard Warner, author of the ‘Plantæ Woodfordienses’ (1771). Between 1775 and 1782 he made many drawings of plants, studying exotic species in the garden of Mr. Thomas Sikes at Tryon's Place, Hackney. In 1784 was printed a list of additions to Warner's ‘Plantæ Woodfordienses,’ attributed by Dryander to Thomas Forster. In 1788 Forster married Susanna, daughter of Thomas Williams of West Ham, and niece of Mr. Sikes. He was one of the first fellows of the Linnean Society, founded in that year, and he visited Tunbridge Wells in that and almost every succeeding year of his life. In conjunction with his brothers he drew up the county lists of plants in Gough's ‘Camden’ (1789), and communicated various plants to the ‘Botanical Magazine’ and to ‘English Botany.’ From 1796 to 1823 he mainly resided at Clapton, and, as he had grown hardy plants in his home at Walthamstow, then devoted himself to greenhouse exotics, giving much assistance to the Messrs. Loddiges in establishing their nursery at Hackney. A list of the rare plants of Tunbridge Wells, pp. 14, 12mo, belonging probably to 1800, is attributed to him by Dryander; and in 1816 he published a ‘Flora Tonbrigensis,’ pp. 216, 8vo, dedicated to Sir J. E. Smith, which was reissued by his son in 1842. His fondness for animals made him refuse to prepare an account of the fauna. In 1823 he moved to Walthamstow on the death of his mother, and died there 28 Oct. 1825, leaving two sons and three daughters. He contributed two papers to the Linnean Society's ‘Transactions,’ and left an extensive hortus siccus of algæ, as well as of flowering plants, together with collections of fossils, music, &c., and more than a thousand drawings of churches and other ancient buildings, executed by himself. His natural history journals of weather prognostics, &c., were published by his son in 1827 as ‘The Pocket Encyclopædia of Natural Phenomena,’ pp. xlviii and 440, 12mo. He was a member of many scientific and philanthropic societies, and among his friends were Porson and Gough, as well as the botanists, Sir J. E. Smith, Sir Joseph Banks, Dryander, Dickson, Robert Brown, and Afzelius of Upsala.

[Gent. Mag. 1849, xxxii. 431; Nichols's Illustrations of Literary History, viii. 553; Flora Tonbrigensis, 2nd ed. 1842; Epistolarium Forsterianum, i. 33–41.]

G. S. B.