Blake, John Bradley

, a gentleman who was cut off early in life, but whose progress and improvements in natural knowledge were so great, that the editors of the second edition of the Biographia Britannica have thought him entitled to an honourable place in their work, was the son of John Blake, esq. and born in London, Nov. 4, 1745; educated at Westminster school; afterwards instructed in mathematics, chemistry, and drawing: but botany was his favourite object, in which he made a great progress. With these advantages he set out in life, and in 1766 was sent as one of the East India company’s supercargoes at Canton in China where he was no sooner fixed, than he resolved to employ every moment of his time, which could be spared from the duties of his station, to the advancement of natural science for the benefit of his countrymen. His plan was, to procure the seeds of all the vegetables found in China, which are used in medicine, manufactures, and food; and to send into Europe not only such seeds, but the plants by which they were produced, that they might be propagated either in Great Britain and Ireland, or in those colonies of America, the soil and climate of which might suit them best. But it was not to botanic subjects alone, that Mr. Blake’s genius was confined he had begun to collect fossils and ores and he now attended as much to mineralogy, as he had done to botany.

It would exceed the limits of our plan, to relate particularly what he did in both, but he is supposed to have sacrificed his life to the closeness and ardour of his pursuits. By denying- himself the needful recreations, and by sitting too intensely to his drawing and studies, he brought on a gravelly complaint; and this increasing to the stone, and being accompanied with a fever, carried him off at Canton Nov. 16, 1773, in his 29th year. The friends of natural knowledge in England were preparing to have him enrolled among the members of the royal society, when the news of his death arrived when sir John Pringle, the president, took an opportunity of making his eloge, and lamented the loss of him very pathetically, as a public misfortune. 2


Biog. Brit.