Knowlton, Thomas (DNB00)

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KNOWLTON, THOMAS (1692–1782), gardener and botanist, born in 1692, superintended from an early age the botanic garden of Dr. Sherard at Eltham in Kent. In 1728 he entered the service of Richard Boyle, third earl of Burlington [q. v.], at Lanesborough, Yorkshire, and there he appears to have remained for the rest of his life. He became known as a botanist of merit, corresponded with Mark Catesby, E. M. Da Costa [q. v.], and other members of the Royal Society, and won the esteem of Sir Hans Sloane. To him is due the first discovery in England of the ‘moor-ball,’ a species of fresh-water algæ of the conferva family, called by Linnæus Ægagropila, from its resemblance to the hairy balls found in the stomachs of goats (Dillwyn, British Confervæ, 1809, pl. 87). In order to find even a moderate number of these balls, he had to spend many hours wading in the lake at Wallingfen, in water from two to over three feet deep. Knowlton was also something of an antiquary. He discovered the exact site of the ancient city of Delgoricia, near Pocklington in Yorkshire, and communicated some observations on this and other subjects to the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ (xliv. 100, 102, 124). Two large deer's horns which he discovered, one resembling the horn of an Irish elk, are figured in the same volume (plate 422). Knowlton died in 1782 at the age of ninety. A botanical genus of the order Ranunculaceæ, comprising five or six species of plants indigenous to the Cape of Good Hope, has been named after him. A John Knowlton, gardener to Earl Fitzwilliam, whose will was proved in February 1782 (P. C. C. Gostling, fol. 95), was probably a brother of the botanist, and Charles Knowlton, who graduated M.A. from St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1751, and was presented, on 7 April 1753, by the Earl of Burlington to the small living of Keighley in Yorkshire, was almost certainly his son (Whitaker, Deanery of Craven, ed. Morant, p. 202; Gent. Mag. 1838, i. 544).

[Pulteney's Progress of Botany, ii. 240; Biog. Universelle, xxii. 498; Nicholson's Dict. of Gardening, ii. 220; Nichols's Illustrations, iv. 469, 748, 785, where several letters to and from Knowlton are printed.]

T. S.