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Hooker, Sir Joseph Dalton

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Hooker, Sir Joseph Dalton

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  • Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker
  • J.D. Hooker

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Dates of existence

1817-1911

History

Born Suffolk 1817, died Berkshire 1911
Joseph Hooker graduated MD from Glasgow University though a passion for botany had developed through attending his father’s (William Jackson Hooker) lectures from the age of 7. Inspired by Darwin’s voyage of the Beagle, he was appointed assistant surgeon and then expedition’s botanist aboard the HMS Erebus in 1839 which spent 4 years exploring the southern oceans. Returning to England he worked on ‘The Botany of the Antarctic Voyages ‘plates, the book eventually being published in 6 volumes in the 1840s and 1850s. He was asked by Darwin to assist in classifying plants Darwin had gathered in the Galapagos; this was the start of a lifelong correspondence and friendship. Hooker acted as a sounding board and later research collaborator for Darwin’s emerging thinking on natural selection. Hooker’s central interest was in the geographical distribution of plants and how species migrated. This had practical applications in the search for new plants and transplanting crops between British colonies for economic exploitation. In 1845 he failed to be appointed professor of botany at Edinburgh University but the following year was appointed botanist to the Geological Survey which led to valuable series of papers. Between 1847 and 1851 Hooker travelled to Sikkim, India and Nepal, collecting 7,000 species including 25 new rhododendrons. In 1855 was appointed assistant director at Kew, under his father William Hooker. He succeeded his father as Director in 1865, by which time he was a highly regarded botanist with an international reputation. He remained Director at Kew until his retirement in 1885. These 20 years saw the expansion of Kew’s imperial role e.g. in facilitating the transfer of cinchona from South America to India and rubber from Brazil to several British colonies. Hooker strove to maintain Kew’s scientific reputation by limiting public access and resisting proposals to transfer Kew’s herbaria to the Natural History Museum. A prolific author, he was elected president of the Royal Society in 1873 and was highly regarded in his lifetime, receiving numerous honours, honorary degrees and prizes.
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists; Journal of Botany 1912
D.W.

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GB/NNAF/P150279

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GB 235

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