Houston, William

, an able promoter of exotic botany in England, went first to the West Indies, in the character of a surgeon, and upon his return, after two years’ residence at Leyden, took his degrees in physic under Boerhaave, in 1728 and 1729. At Leyden he instituted a set of experiments on brutes; some of which were made in concert with the celebrated Van Swieten. They were afterwards published in the Philosophical Transactions under the title of “Experimenta de perforatione thoracis, ejusque in respiratione affectibus,” the result of which proved, contrary to the common opinion, that animals could live and breathe for some time, although air was freely admitted into both cavities of the thorax. Soon after his return from Holland, he was in 1732 elected a fellow of the royal society, and went immediately to the West Indies, where he fell a sacrifice to the heat of the climate, July 14, 1733. He had previously sent over a description and figure of the dorsteria contrayerva, which were published in the Philosophical Transactions, vol. XXXVII. This was the first authentic account received of that drug, although known in England from the time of sir Francis Drake, or earlier. He also sent to his friend Mr. Miller, of Chelsea, the seeds of many rare and new plants collected by him in the islands. His ms Catalogue of plants also came into the hands of Mr. Miller, and after his death into the possession of sir Joseph Banks, who, out of respect to the memory of so deserving a man, gratified the botanists with the publication of them, under the title of " Reliquiae Houstonianae, 1781, 4to. 2


Pulteney’s Hist, and Biog. Sketches.