John Forbes Royle

10 May 1798
2 Jan 1858
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John Forbes Royle (10 May 1798 – 2 January 1858), British botanist and teacher of materia medica, was born in Kanpur (then Cawnpore) in 1798. Entering the service of the East India Company as assistant surgeon, he devoted himself to studying botany and geology, and made large collections among the Himalaya Mountains. He also investigated the medical properties of the plants of Hindustan and the history of their uses among the native races. The results of these investigations appeared in an essay On the Antiquity of Hindu Medicine (1837). For nearly ten years he held the post of superintendent of the East India Company’s botanic garden in the Himalayas at Saharanpur. In 1837 he was appointed to the professorship of materia medica in King’s College London, which he held till 1856. From 1838 onwards be conducted a special department of correspondence, relating to vegetable products, at the East India House, and at the time of his death he had just completed there an extensive and valuable museum of technical products from the East Indies. In 1851 he superintended the Indian department of the Great Exhibition. He died at Acton near London on 2 January 1858.

The work on which his reputation chiefly rests is the Illustrations of the Botany and other branches of Natural History of the Himalayan Mountains, and of the Flora of Cashmere, in 2 vols. begun in 1839. In addition he wrote An Essay on the Productive Resources of India (1840), On the Culture and Commerce of Cotton in India and Elsewhere (1851) and The Fibrous Plants of India fitted for Cordage (1855), together with papers in scientific journals. He contributed most of the plant entries in “The Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature” edited by John Kitto. This botanist is denoted by the author abbreviation Royle when citing a botanical name.

John Forbes Royle was the son of William Henry Royle and Isabella Forbes. He married Annette Solly in 1839 (1816-1894). They had a daughter Annette Jane and sons Joseph Ralph Edward John, William Henry Lough and Edmund Elphinstone.

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