Miller, Philip

, a celebrated gardener and botanist, was born in 1691. His father was gardener to the company of apothecaries afr Chelsea, and the son succeeded him in that otfice in 1722. His great skill in cultivation was soon evinced in a paper, communicated by himself to the Royal Society in 1728, and printed in the 35th volume of the Philosophical Transactions, on “a method of raising some exotic seeds,” which had been judged almost impossible to be raised in England; and two years afterwards, he made known, for the first time, the present popular mode of causing bulbous plants to flower in water. In 1730 he published anonymously, a thin folio, accompanied with twenty-one coloured plates, after the drawings of Van Huysum, entitled “A Catalogue of trees, shrubs, plants, and flowers, both exotic and domestic, which are prepared for sale in the gardens near London.” The preface is signed by a society of gardeners, amongst whom the name of Miller appears. The work is much more than a mere catalogue, the generic characters being given in English, and many horticultural and ceconomical remarks subjoined.

In 1731 appeared the first edition of the “Gardener’s Dictionary,” in folio, the most celebrated work of its kind, which has been often translated, copied, and abridged, and may be said to have laid the foundation of all the horticultural taste and knowledge in Europe. It went through eight editions in England, during the life of the author, the last being dated 1768. This last, which forms a very thick folio volume, follows the nomenclature and style of Linnaeus; the earlier ones having beeo written on | Touruefortian principles. A much more ample edition has been published within a few years, making four large volumes, under the, care of the rev. Prot. Martyn. In this all the modern botanical discoveries are incorporated with the substance of the eighth edition. Linnæus justly predicted “Non erit Lexicon hortulanorum, sed botanicorum,” and it has certainly been the means of extending the taste for scientific botany, as well as horticulture. This work had been preceded, in 1724, by “The Gardener’s and Florist’s Dictionary,” 2 vols. 8vo, and was soon followed by “The Gardener’s Kalender,” a single 8vo volume, which has gone through numerous editions. One of these, in 1761, was first accompanied by “A short introduction to a knowledge of the science of Botany,” with five plates, illustrative of the Linnaean system. Miller had been trained in the schools of Tournefort and of Ray, and had been personally acquainted with the great English naturalist, of which he was always very proud. No wonder, therefore, if he proved slow in submitting to the Linnaean reformation and revolution, especially as sir Hans Sloane, the Mecaenas of Chelsea, had not given them the sanction of his approbation. At length more intelligent advisers, Dr. Watson and Mr. Hudson, overcame his reluctance, and, his eyes being once opened, he soon derived advantage from so rich a source. He became a correspondent of Linnæus, and one of his warmest admirers. Although it does not appear that he had any direct communication with Micheli, he was chosen a member of the botanical society of Florence, which seems to indicate that they were known to each other, and probably communicated through Sloane and Sherard, as neither was acquainted with the other’s language. Miller maintained an extensive communication of seeds with all parts of the world. His friend Houston sent him many rarities from the West Indies, and Miller but too soon inherited the papers of this ingenious man, amongst which were some botanical engravings on copper. Of these he sent an impression to Linnæus and such of them as escaped accidents, afterwards composed the “Reliquiae Houstonianae.

In 1755 our author began to publish, in folio numbers, his “Figures of Plants,” adapted to his dictionary. These extended to three hundred coloured plates, mating, with descriptions and remarks, two folio volumes, and were completed in 1760. They comprehend many rare and | beautiful species, there exhibited for the first time. The commendable design of the writer was to give one or more of the species of each known genus, all from living plants; which as far as possible he accomplished. His plates have more botanical dissections than any that had previously appeared in this country. Miller was a fellow of the Royal Society, and enriched its Transactions with several papers. The most numerous of these were catalogues of the annual collections of fifty plants, which were required to be sent to that learned body, from Chelsea garden, by the rules of its foundation. These collections are preserved in the British Museum, and are occasionally resorted to for critical inquiries in botany. He wrote also on the poison ash, or Toxicodendrum, of America, which he believed to be the Japanese varnish tre of Koempfer; a position controverted by Mr. Ellis, who appears to have been in the right, and this may account for a certain degree of ill humour betrayed by Mr. Miller in the course of the dispute.

Miller continued to attend to his duties and his favourite pursuits to an advanced age, but was obliged at length, by his infirmities, to resign the charge of the garden. He died soon after, at Chelsea, December 18, 1771, in his eighty-first year, and was interred in the burying-ground in the King’s road, with his wife, by whom he had, if we mistake not, several children. One of them, Mr. Charles Miller, who spent some time in the East Indies, where he acquired a handsome fortune, made some experiments on the cultivation of wheat, an account of which was given by Dr. Watson to the Royal Society. They were intended to shew the wonderful produce to be obtained by division and transplantation, and have often been repeated. An account of the island of Sumatra, by Mr. C. Miller, is printed in vol. LXVIII. of the Philosophical Transactions. The sister of Philip Miller married Ehret, and left one son. In the course of his residence at Chelsea, Miller collected, principally from the garden, an ample herbarium, which was purchased by sir Joseph Banks. 1


Pulteney’s Bot. Sketches. Rees’s Cyclopedia by Sir J. E. Smith.