Hedwig, John

, a celebrated botanist, was born Oct. 8, 17 So, at Cronstadt, in Transylvania, where his fatbi-r was one of the magistrates. After the first rudiments of domestic education at home, he studied for four years at the public school of his native town. On the death of his father in 1747, he went for further improvement to the university of Presburg in Hungary, where he remained two years, and then proceeded toZittau in Upper Lusatia. In 1752 he removed to Leipsic, where his diligence and talents, as well as his personal character, procured him the favour and friendship of the celebrated Ludwig in particular, by whose lectures of various kinds, as well as those of Hebenstreit, Boehmer, and others, he rapidly and abundantly profited. In 1756, he was taken into the house of professor Bose, to assist him in the demonstration of plants-in his botanical lectures, as well as in the care of patients at the infirmary; and it is supposed that this engagement was full as advantageous to the master as to the pupil. Having at length finished his studies, he was defcirons of settling as a physician in Ills native place, but was prevented by an exclusive law in favour of such as are educated in some Austrian school. In 1759 he took his degree of doctor of physic at Leipsic, and was induced to establish himself at Chemnitz. He was now so far master of his own time, that he found himself able to alleviate the labours of his profession by almost daily attention to his favourite studies. His morning hours in summer, from five till breakfast-time, were spent in the fields and woods, and his evenings in the investigation of what he had collected, or else in the care of a little garden of his own. To pursue with success his inquiries, he found it necessary, at forty years of age, to learn drawing, which enabled him to publish some of the most curious and authentic botanical figures. | The first and greatest fruit of Hedwig’s labours, was the determination of the mule and female Mowers of mosses, the theory of which was h’rst clearly detailed by him. He also first beheld the bladder-like anther, of the Liuneeaii Biyum pulvinaliun, discharging its pollen, on the 17th of January, 177O. He was already satisfied that what Linnteus, misled by Dillenius against his own previous opinion, had taken for anthers, were in fact the capsules of mosses, and produced real (seed. A history of his discoveries was published in a German periodical work at Leipsic in 1779. In 1782 appeared his valuable “Fuiuiamentum Historise Nuturalis Muscorum Frondosorum,” a baudsome Latin quarto, in two parts, with 20 coloured microscopical plates. The earliest account given of Hedwig’s opinions in England, was from the communications of the late professor J. Sibthorp, who had just then visited him, to Dr. Smith, in 1786, and is annexed to a translation of Limiaeus’s “Dissertation on the Sexes of Plants,” published that year. Hedwig lost his first wife in 1776, and again married a very accomplished lady the following year, who was, like the former, a native of Leipsic. By her persuasion he removed to Leipsic in 1781, and the following year the work above mentioned was there published. The same subject is happily followed up in his “Theoria generationis et fructificationis plant arum cryptogamicarum Linnaet,” published at Petersburgh in 1784. This work gained its author the prize from that academy in 1783, of 100 gold ducats. In it the fructification and germination of mosses is further illustrated, and a view is also taken of the fructification of the other cryptogam ic families, the author being very naturally desirous of extending his discoveries throughout that obscure tribe of plants. A new and encreased edition of this work appeared in 1798.

The literary fame of Hedwig, und his medical practice, were now every day increasing. He was made physician to the town guards, and professor of physic and of botany at Leipsic. The latter appointment, in which he succeeded Dr. Pohl removed to Dresden in 1789, was accompanied with a house, and the superintendance of the public garden. In 1791 the senate appointed him physician to the school of St. Thomas. The duties of all these various stations might be supposed to have fully occupied his time, yet he still found leisure ta attend to new communications | from his friends. Many nondescript mosses were sent him from Pennsylvania by the rev. Dr. Muhienberg, and many West-Indian ones by Dr. Swartz. A fine collection of new or rare ferns, in full fructification, was forwarded to him by sir Joseph Banks, at the suggestion of Dr. Smith, in hopes that he might be induced to take up their examination; it not being then known in this country, that he was already intent on the subject, and preparing his essay for the Petersburgh academy. The fruits of these communications were not given to the world in his life-time. But the former ones contributed, with other matter, to a posthumous work, pablished by his able pupil Dr. Schwaegrichen, entitled “Species Muscorum,” in 4to, with 77 coloured plates; and the latter to some subsequent works of his son; but his great work is his “Cryptogamia1787—1797, 4 Vols. fol. the figures in which are given with a fidelity rarely to be seen. Hedwig died Feb. 17, 1799. As an observer and faithful describer, he cannot be ranked too high; as a vegetable physiologist, if not always infallible, he stands in the first order; and his knowledge was enhanced by modesty, candour, affability, the strictest probity, and the most elevated piety. His scientific character in other respects is well delineated in our authority. 1


Rees’s Cyclopædia, by DivS