Lindley, Doctor John
b. 1799-02-05
d. 1865-11-01
Doctor John Lindley was a prominent English botanist who represented Vancouver Island at the 1862 International Expedition in London, alongside Commander Richard Charles Mayne and Alfred John Langley.1
Lindley used his academic prestige to have his son-in-law, Henry Crease, appointed to a position in the British Columbian government. He notes, somewhat modestly, that he is a man not wholly unknown in science, and that his services have been freely placed at the command of the government upon occasions of considerable importance.2 Lindley's services to the British government include advising the Board of Ordnance on vegetable sources of carbon for gunpowder, the Hudson's Bay Company on botanical exploration, the Admiralty on reforesting Ascension Island, and Inland Revenue on coffee (and its adulterants).3 In 1863, Lindley also forwarded a report on Vancouver Island's economy to Newcastle.4 The forwarded letter is anonymous, but may have been sent by Henry Crease, presumably Lindley's closest contact in Vancouver Island.
Lindley's success is a testament to his incredible work ethic. He wanted a military commission, but his family couldn't afford him one, and he never undertook formal post-secondary education. Lindley's natural affinity for seeds and plants and networks through various friends led him to befriend Sir Joseph Banks. Banks employed Lindley at his library and herbarium in Soho Square in 1819. Here, Lindley composed his first publications, and was elected to the Linnean and Geological societies in 1820. In 1821, he was further elected to the Imperial Academy of Natural History and to the Royal Society in 1828. In 1829, Lindley became the first professor of botany at the University of London. By his retirement in 1860, Lindley had over 200 publications to his credit. Some of Lindley's other accolades include an honorary doctorate of philosophy from the University of Munich (1832), and the Royal Society's royal medal (1853).5
Lindley married Sarah Freestone 1 November 1823. Three of their five children grew to adulthood.6 He died of apoplexy 1 November 1865. This may have been caused, in part, by his frequent exposures to mercury (an ingredient in specimen preparation) throughout his life.7
Many of the genera Lindley defined continue to be used today, evidence of his scientific shrewdness. The modern practices of ending all botanical families with “acae,” and all orders with “ales” derive from Lindley's advocation of common suffixes across common hierarchal standings.8 Additionally, Lindley continues to be lauded as the man who saved Kew gardens, in recognition of his campaigning to the prime minister on behalf of Kew in 1840.9 Robert Scott named “Mt. Lindley,” in Antarctica, after Doctor Lindley's son, John,10 and Doctor Lindley's great-grandson, Rory McEwen, was a notable botanical artist of the twentieth century.11
Mentions of this person in the documents