Grew, Nehemiah

, the first and most universal vegetable anatomist and physiologist of this country, the son of the preceding, was born at Coventry. The year of his birth is not mentioned, but from some circumstances appears to have been 1628. He was brought up a presbyterian, his father having taken the covenant; and on the change of the national form of religion, at the restoration of Charles II. he was sent to study in some foreign university, where he took his degree of doctor of physic. He settled first at Coventry, and probably resided there in 1664, when, as he informs us in tht 1 preface to his Anatomy of Plants, he first directed his thoughts to the subject of that work, “upon reading some of the many and curious inventions of learned men, in the bodies of animals. For considering that both of them came at first out of the same hand, and were therefore the contrivances of the same wisdom; I thence,” says he, “fully assured myself, that it could not be a vain design to seek it in both. That so I might put somewhat upon that side the leaf which the best botanicks had left bare and empty.” Four years afterwards he consulted his brother-in-law, Dr. Henry Sampson, who encouraged him to go on, by pointing out a passage in Glisson’s book “De Hepate,” chap. 1, in which the anatomy of plants is hinted at as an unexplored, but very promising line of study for a practical observer. For some time he resided at Coventry, but determining to settle in London, he came thither about 1672. Before this his first essay on the anatomy of plants was communicated to the royal society in 1670, by bishop Wilkins, under the title of an “Idea of a Philosophical History of Plants.” It was received with the honour and attention it deserved, being ordered to be printed, and its author, in that year also, on the recommendation of the same learned divine, became a fellow of the royal society. He was appointed secretary in 1677, in which capacity he published the | Philosophical Transactions from Jan. 1677-8, to Feb. in the following year. In 1680 he was made an honorary fellovr of the college of physicians. He is said to have attained to considerable practice in his profession, nor did his being a nonconformist deprive him of the credit justly due to his piety and philosophical merit, even in the worst times. He lived indeed to see various changes of opinions and professions, apparently with the tranquillity becoming a philosopher and a good man, and died suddenly, March 25, 1711.

Dr. Grew’s Anatomy of Vegetables, of Roots, and of Trunks, originally formed three separate publications in 8vo, but were subsequently collected into a folio volume, and published in 1682, with 83 plates. In this work, truly original, though Malpighi had about the same time, or rather before, pursued the same line of inquiry, scarcely any thing relative to the vegetable anatomy is left untouched. It was the character of Grew to observe every thing, and if a more philosophical observer, more aware of what is best worth remarking, be, in general estimation, a superior character, the latter is more likely to see through the false medium of dazzling theory. The works of Grew are a storehouse of facts, for the use of less original and more indolent authors. They seldom require correction, except where theory is interwoven with observation, and even his theories have passed current till very lately. His chemistry is, of course, that of his time, but his remarks on vegetable secretions, and their multifarious and peculiar properties, abound with ingenuity and originality, as well as his comparative examinations of the various kinds of fruits and seeds. If he had no correct ideas of the propulsion or direction of the sap, we must not forget that he was one of the first who adopted and illustrated the doctrine of the sexes of plants, nor did even the principles of methodical arrangement entirely escape his notice.

In 1681 Dr. Grew published a folio volume, entitled “Museum Regalis Societatis,” or a catalogue and description of the natural and artificial rarities belonging to the Royal Society, and preserved at Gresbam college. This is a scientific and descriptive catalogue, with learned references to preceding writers. It is accompanied by “the Comparative Anatomy of Stomachs and Guts begun, being several lectures read before the Royal Society in 1676.” Twenty-two plates illustrate the first part of this volume, | and nine the latter, which were given to him by Daniel Coiwell, esq. the founder of the collection. The latest publication of our author was “Cosmographia Sacra, or a Discourse of the Universe, as it is the creature and kingdom of God.” He was an illustrious proof that it is the fool, and not the philosopher, “who hath said in his heart there is no God” The works of Grew were soon translated into French and Latin, but the latter very incorrectly. His funeral sermon was preached at the meeting in the Old Jewry by the rev. John Shower. It appears by this discourse that Dr. Grew illustrated his learned character by a life of strict piety, humility, and charity. 1

1 Biog. Brit.- Ward’s Greshain Professors.- Rees’s Cyclopsedia.-T-Funera Sermon, by Sbo-.ver.