Ward, Nathaniel Bagshaw (DNB00)

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WARD, NATHANIEL BAGSHAW (1791–1868), botanist, son of Stephen Smith Ward, a medical man, was born in London in 1791. He began collecting plants and insects early in life, and was sent, when thirteen, on a voyage to Jamaica, where he was so impressed by the tropical vegetation of the interior as to become an ardent botanist. He was apprenticed to his father's profession, studied at the London Hospital, and attended the botanical demonstrations and herborisings of Thomas Wheeler [q. v.], demonstrator to the Society of Apothecaries. Having succeeded to his father's practice at Wellclose Square, Whitechapel, he devoted the early morning hours to collecting plants round London, frequently visiting the gardens of the Messrs. Loddiges at Hackney, and those at Chelsea and Kew. In later years he frequently stayed with his family at Cobham in Kent. Doing his best to cultivate plants amid the increasingly smoky surroundings of his home, and to encourage window-gardening among the working-classes, the chance sprouting of some seedling plants in a bottle, in which, in 1829, he had placed a chrysalis, suggested to him the principle of the Wardian case. These plants grew four years without water. In 1833 he sent two cases containing growing ferns and grasses to Sydney, where they were refilled, their contents reaching England alive, without having been watered, and although exposed to snow and a temperature of 20° F. off Cape Horn, and to one of 120° F. on the equator. In 1836 Sir William Jackson Hooker [q. v.] published an account of the discovery in the ‘Companion to the Botanical Magazine’ (i. 317–20), as an ‘improved method of transporting living plants,’ and Ward himself issued a pamphlet on the ‘Growth of Plants without open Exposure to Air.’ Faraday lectured on the subject at the Royal Institution in 1838, and John Williams (1796–1839) [q. v.], ‘the martyr of Erromanga,’ by means of the Wardian case introduced the Chinese or Cavendish banana from Chatsworth to Samoa, whence, in 1840, George Pritchard [q. v.] took it to Tonga and Fiji. The value of the invention was further demonstrated by Robert Fortune's conveyance of twenty thousand tea plants from Shanghai to the Himalayas, and subsequently by the introduction of the cinchona into India by the same means. From 1836 to 1854 Ward acted as examiner in botany to the Society of Apothecaries; in the latter year he became master, and afterwards treasurer, of the society. He was much interested in the maintenance of the Chelsea Botanical Garden, and arranged the transfer, in 1863, of the herbaria of Ray, Dale, and Rand to the safer custody of the British Museum. He was an original member of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, acting from its foundation in 1836 as its local secretary for London; and, in conjunction with his neighbours, Edwin and John Thomas Quekett [q. v.], founded in 1839 the Microscopical (now the Royal Microscopical) Society. On retiring from practice Ward removed to Clapham Rise, where he devoted himself to gardening and to the increase of his neatly mounted herbarium, which contained twenty-five thousand specimens. He died at St. Leonard's, Sussex, on 4 June 1868, and was buried in Norwood cemetery. Ward was elected fellow of the Linnean Society in 1817, and of the Royal Society in 1852; his portrait, painted by J. P. Knight, was presented by subscription to the former body in 1856; and his name was commemorated by his friends William Henry Harvey [q. v.] and William Jackson Hooker in Wardia, a genus of South African mosses. His chief independent publication was ‘On the Growth of Plants in closely glazed Cases,’ 1842, 8vo, of which a second edition, illustrated by his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Stephen Ward, and her brother, E. W. Cooke, R.A., appeared in 1852.

[Britten and Boulger's Biogr. Index of Botanists, and authorities there cited.]

G. S. B.