Masters, Maxwell Tylden (DNB12)

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MASTERS, MAXWELL TYLDEN (1833–1907), botanist, born at Canterbury on 15 April 1833, was youngest son of William Masters (1796-1874), a nurseryman of scientific ability, known as the raiser of elm and other seedlings, as a hybridiser of passion 'flowers, aloes and cacti, and as the compiler of a valuable catalogue, 'Hortus Duroverni' (1831); he corresponded with Sir William Hooker [q. v.] from 1846 to 1862, became alderman and mayor of Canterbury, and was founder of the museum there in 1823.

Masters, after education at King's College, London, of which he became an associate, qualified L.S.A. in 1854 and M.R.C.S. in 1856. He graduated M.D. in absentia at St. Andrews in 1862.

While at King's College he attended the lectures of Edward Forbes [q. v.] and those of Lindley at the Chelsea physic garden. On the acquisition of the Fielding herbarium by the university of Oxford, Masters was appointed sub-curator under Dr. Daubeny, the professor of botany, and his first paper, one on air-cells in aquatic plants, was communicated to the Ashmolean Society in 1853. He delivered courses of lectures on botany at the London and Royal Institutions, and was an unsuccessful candidate in 1854 for the botanical chair which Edward Forbes vacated at King's College on his appointment to Edinburgh; Robert Bentley [q. v. Suppl. I] was elected. From 1855 to 1868 Masters was lecturer on botany at St. George's Hospital medical school. In 1856 he began to practise as a general practitioner at Peckham.

It was at this period that his attention was first drawn to the study of malformations, especially those of the flower, and their connection with the theory of the foliar nature of its parts. His first teratological paper, one on a monstrosity in Saponaria, was published in 1857 in the 'Journal of the Linnean Society,' of which he became a fellow in 1860. After other preliminary papers, his volume on 'Vegetable Teratology,' to which he was prompted by his friend Samuel James Salter, F.R.S. (1825-97), and which was on the whole his most original contribution to science, was issued by the Ray Society in 1869. Although the author never had leisure to prepare a second edition, he furnished many additions to the German version published in 1886, and in 1893, he prepared a descriptive catalogue of the specimens of vegetable teratology in the museum of the Royal Colleg4 of Surgeons. On the death of Lindley, its founder, in November 1865, Masters, whose elder brother William was associated with the 'Gardeners' chronicle' at its establishment in 1841, was appointed principal editor of that journal, and henceforth the horticultural side of botany was his dominant interest for life. Under his direction the paper maintained a high standard. Botanists of eminence were among the writers, and he encouraged beginners. Masters acted as secretary to the International Horticultural Congress of 1866, and edited its 'Proceedings.' Out of the large surplus, Lindley's library was purchased for the nation and vested in trustees, of whom Masters was chairman, whilst 1000l. was given to the Gardeners' Royal Benevolent Institution, in which Masters always took keen interest. He was an assiduously active supporter of the Royal Horticultural Society, and succeeded Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker [q. v. Suppl. II] as chairman of the scientific committee. He kept in close touch with the progress of horticulture on the Continent.

Masters continued to work at pure botany, studying in the Kew herbarium from 1865. He was a large contributor to Lindley and Moore's 'Treasury of Botany' (1866; revised edit. 1873), elaborated the Malvaceae and allied orders and the passion-flowers for Oliver's 'Flora of Tropical Africa' (vol. i. 1868; vol. ii. 1871), and the passion-flowers for the 'Flora Brasiliensis' (1872); and after much study, prepared a monograph on the same family Restlacea; for De Candolle's supplement to the 'Prodromus' (1878). On the conifers, which divided his chief attention with the passion-flowers, he wrote in the 'Journals' of the Linnean and Horticultural Societies, the 'Journal of Botany,' and in the 'Gardeners' Chronicle,' and in 1892 he presided over the Conifer Conference of the Horticultural Society. He also contributed to Hooker's 'Flora of British India' and to his edition of Harvey's 'South African Plants,' and to Sir William Thiselton-Dyer's 'Flora Capensis.'

As lecturer and examiner, Masters knew the requirements of students, and met them successfully in thorough revisions of Henfrey's 'Elementary Course of Botany,' which he brought abreast of the time (2nd edit. 1870; 3rd edit. 1878, with the section on fungi rewritten by George Milne Murray [q. v. Suppl. II]; 4th edit, in 1884, with the eectionfl relating to the cryptogamia reritten by Alfred William Bennett [q. v. Suppl. II]). Masters also published two primers, 'Botany for Beginners' (1872) and 'Plant Life' (1883), both of which were translated into French, German, and Russian, and he contributed articles on horticulture and other subjects to 'Encyclopædia Britannica' (9th edit.).

Masters was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1870, and a correspondent of the Institute of France in 1888; and was also a chevalier of the order of Leopold. He died at the Mount, Ealing, on 30 May 1907. His body was cremated at Woking. In 1858 he married Ellen, daughter of William Tress, by whom he had four children. His wife and two daughters survived him.

His services have been commemorated by the endowment of an annual series of Masters lectures in connection with the Royal Horticultural Society.

[Gardeners' Chronicle, xli. (1907), pp. 368, 377, 398, 418, by William Betting Hemsley (with two portraits); Kew Bulletin. 1907, pp. 325-334, with bibliography.]

G. S. B.