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Collection MEN - Menzies, Archibald
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Reference code

GB235 MEN

Title

Menzies, Archibald

Date(s)

  • 1754 - 1842 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

1 box misc. papers & correspondence

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Name of creator

Menzies, Archibald (1754-1842)

Biographical history

Born Perthshire 1754, died London 1842
Archibald Menzies was initially employed as a gardener at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (then on Leith Walk) where the Regius Keeper, John Hope, stimulated his interest in botany. In 1778 he toured the Highlands and Hebrides collecting plants and Hope later encouraged him to study medicine. He graduated from Edinburgh University in 1781 and joined the Royal Navy where his career as a naval surgeon took him all over the world. He was chosen as naturalist and surgeon on the Discovery under Captain Vancouver on a long voyage exploring and charting the coasts of north-west America and the Pacific from 1790 to 1795. Menzies made the first recorded ascent by a European of Mauna Loa in Hawaii. He brought back a great variety of plants, cryptogams and natural history objects from his expeditions. He introduced to Britain the monkey puzzle araucaria araucana and wrote the first description of the Douglas fir, pseudotsuga menziesii. In 1790 he was elected fellow of the Linnaean Society in whose transactions he published accounts of his natural history findings during the 1790s as well as publishing an account of the Discovery voyage in the contemporary ‘Magazine of Natural History’. However he tended to rely on other botanists to publicise and interpret his findings and some of his journals were not published until the twentieth century. After retiring from the navy, Menzies practised as a doctor in London and on his death his herbarium of grasses, sedges and cryptogams was bequeathed to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; HR Fletcher and WH Brown ‘The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 1670-1970’; Deni Bown, ‘4 Gardens in One’; (R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists)
D.W.

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•Box containing Menzies Bequest (1842-43), miscellaneous papers, correspondence and lists.
•Newspaper article titled ‘Renaissance Man’ about Archibald Menzies, celebrating the 250th anniversary of his birth, from the Courier and Advertiser, 14.08.2004

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