Morton, John (1671-1726) (DNB00)

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MORTON, JOHN (1671?–1726), naturalist, was born between 18 July 1670 and 18 July 1671. He matriculated at Cambridge on 17 Dec. 1688, graduated B.A. from Emmanuel College in 1691; took an ad eundem degree at Oxford in 1694, and proceeded M.A. in 1695. In 1701 Morton became curate of Great Oxendon, Northamptonshire, and in 1703 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. His first letter to Sloane (Sloane MS. 4053, f. 329) is dated 7 Feb. 1703, and alludes to his acquaintance with Captain Hatton, his recent election into the Royal Society, and his 'Natural History of Northamptonshire, then in progress.' In a letter to Dr. Richard Richardson [q.v.] of North Bierley (Richardson Correspondence, p. 85), dated 9 Nov. 1704, he writes: 'My acquaintance with Mr. Ray initiated me early in the search and study of plants : from the reading of Dr. Lister's books, became an inquirer after fossil shells; and my correspondence with Dr. Woodward, Dr. Sloane, and Mr. Lhwyd, has supported my curiosity.' Sloane appears to have visited him at Oxendon between May 1705 and April 1706; and in the latter year Morton was instituted as rector of that place. In the 'Philosophical Transactions' for 1706 (No. 305, xxv. 2210) appeared ' A Letter from the Rev. Mr. Morton, A.M. and S.R.S., to Dr. Hans Sloane, S.R. Seer., containing a Relation of river and other Shells digg'd up, together with. various Vegetable Bodies, in a bituminous marshy earth, near Mears-Ashby, in Northamptonshire: with some Reflections thereupon: as also an Account of the Progress he has made in the Natural History of Northamptonshire.' In this, and in his later work, Morton adopted the views of Dr. John Woodward as to the deluge and the entombment of fossils according to their gravities. In 1710 he became rector of Great Oxendon. In 1712 he published 'The Natural History of Northamptonshire, with some account of the Antiquities; to which is annexed a transcript of Domesday Book, as far as it relates to that County,' London, folio. This book deals largely with 'figured fossils,' of which it contains several plates, and Pulteney praises the botanical part; but in Whalley's 'History of Northamptonshire' the transcript of Domesday is said to be very inaccurate. Writing to Richardson in 1713, Morton says: 'I frequently drank your health with my friend Mr. Buddie, and other of the London botanists.' He died on 18 July 1726, aged 55, and was buried at Great Oxendon, where a monument, with an inscription to his memory, was erected at the expense of Sir Hans Sloane.

[Sloane MS. 4053, ff. 329-54; Nichols's Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century, i. 326; Pulteney's Sketches of the Progress of Botany, i. 354; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. vi. 358.]

G. S. B.