Nuttall, Thomas (1786-1859) (DNB00)

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NUTTALL, THOMAS (1786–1859), naturalist, son of Jonas Nuttall, printer, Blackburn, Lancashire, was born at Long Preston, Settle, Yorkshire, on 5 Jan. 1786, while his mother was on a visit. He was educated at Blackburn, and brought up there as a printer. He early took up the study of botany, particularly the flora of his native hills. In March 1807 he went to the United States, and afterwards devoted his life to scientific pursuits. Asa Gray, writing in 1844, says that ‘from that time [1808] to the present no botanist has visited so large a portion of the United States, or made such an amount of observations in field and forest. Probably few naturalists have ever excelled him in aptitude for such observations, in quickness of eye, tact in discrimination, and tenacity of memory.’ He visited nearly all the states of the union, and made more discoveries than any other explorer of the botany of North America. In 1811, along with Bradbury, he ascended the Missouri sixteen hundred miles above its mouth. In 1819 he made the then dangerous ascent of the Arkansas to the Great Salt River. In 1834 he succeeded in crossing the Rocky Mountains by the road along the sources of the Platte, and explored the territory of the Oregon and of Upper California. He also visited the Sandwich Islands. From 1822 to 1834 he was professor of natural history in Harvard University, and curator of the botanic gardens in connection with the university. He returned to England in 1842, living at Nutgrove, near St. Helens, Lancashire, an estate which was left to him on condition that he should reside upon it. There he had an extensive garden and collection of living plants. He died of prolonged chronic bronchitis at Nutgrove on 10 Sept. 1859. A portrait was published in 1825 by Fisher.

He was the author of many important contributions to American scientific journals, as well as of the following works: 1. ‘Genera of North American Plants and a Catalogue of the Species to the year 1817,’ Philadelphia, 1818, 2 vols. 12mo. 2. ‘Geological Sketch of the Valley of the Mississippi.’ 3. ‘Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory,’ Philadelphia, 1821, 8vo. 4. ‘Introduction to Systematic and Physiological Botany,’ Boston, 1827, 8vo. 5. ‘Manual of the Ornithology of the United States and of Canada,’ pt. i. Land Birds, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1832, 12mo, pt. ii. Water Birds, Boston, 1834, 12mo. A new edition, revised by Montague Chamberlain, has recently been issued (1894) under the auspices of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 6. ‘North American Sylva: Trees not described by F. A. Michaux,’ Philadelphia, 1842–9, 3 vols. 8vo.

[Asa Gray's Scientific Papers, 1889, ii. 75 et passim; Appleton's Cyclop. of American Biography, iv. 547; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit. ii. 1445; J. Windsor's Flora Cravonensis, 1873, p. 1; Royal Soc. Cat. of Scientific Papers, iv. 650 (list of twenty-seven papers); Cat. of Boston Athenæum Library; Gent. Mag. ii. 1859, p. 653; Brackenbridge's Views of Louisiana, 1814, pp. 239–40; The Harvard Book, 1875, ii. 314; Whittle's Blackburn, 1854, p. 194; Britten and Boulger's Index of Botanists, 1893.]

C. W. S.