Morison, Robert

, a distinguished botanist of the seventeenth century, was born at Aberdeen in 1620. Being designed for the church, he devoted himself to the study of mathematics in that university; but was diverted from such pursuits by a taste for physic, and especially botany, which, however, was interrupted, for a time at least, by his loyalty, which induced him to become a soldier in the service of king Charles. After receiving a dangerous wound in the head, in the battle near the bridge of Dee, about two miles from Aberdeen, which for a while disabled him, he retired, like many of his countrymen after the ruin of the royal cause, to Paris. Here he became tutor to a young man of some fortune, while he sedulously cultivated the studies necessary for his profession, and took the degree of doctor of physic at Angers, in 1648. Botany, however, was still his favourite pursuit; and by means of M. Robin, who had then the care of the royul garden at Paris, he acquired the patronage of Gaston, duke of Orleans, and was entrusted with the care of that prince’s garden at Blois, accompanied by a handsome salary. He held this charge from 1650 to 1660, when the duke dieil. During that period he devoted himself to the study of theoretical as | well as practical botany. He began to plan a system, on the subject of which his royal patron is reported to have delighted to confer with him. He was also dispatched on several botanical expeditions, to various parts of France, for the purpose of enriching the garden. A catalogue of this garden was printed in 1653, by Abel Brunyer, physician to the duke; of which Morison afterwards published at London, in. 1669, a new and enlarged edition, accompanied by a regular and professed criticism of the works of “Caspar and John Bauhin, which Haller has blamed more than it deserves. Morison gives to these great men all the rank and honour which their eminent learning and industry deserve; and while he points out their mistakes or imperfections, he expresses a wish to have his own likewise pointed out. The” Hortus Blesensis" is disposed in alphabetical order, and accompanied by a double dedication, to king Charles II. and James duke of York, to whom its author had become known in France. On the restoration he refused the most liberal offers to settle in France, and on his arrival in London received the titles of king’s physician, and royal professor of botany, with a salary of 200l. a year, and a house, as superintendant of the royal gardens, He was also elected a fellow of the college of physicans.

In 1669 he received his doctor’s degree from the university of Oxford, and was, Dec. 16, appointed botanical professor, or more properly, keeper of the physic garden, in consequence of which he gave a course of lectures there for some years*. He had been for some time meditating a great universal work on botany, and published an excellent specimen in 1672, containing a methodical arrangement of umbelliferous plants, in folio, accompanied with palates. He takes the leading characters of these plants from the seeds, but admits under the same denomination a tribe totally different, which is surely as great an error as any he had detected in the Bauhins. In 1674, he edited at Oxford a thin 4to, from the Mss. of Boccone, describing a number of new plants from Sicily, Malta, France, and Italy, witji 52 plates, which are in general very ex­* Wood tells us that “he made his week for five weeks space, not xvithout entrance on this lecture in the medi- a considerable auditory.” He is, howcine school, Sept. 2, 1670, and the 5th ever, improperly styled professor, as of the same mouth translated himself the professorship was not founded unto the physic garden, where he read ia til Sherard’s time, who appointed Dil-. the middle of it, with a table before lenius first professor on his foundahim, ou herbs and plants, thrice a lion in 1728. | pressive, and many of the plants are no where else represented. His great work, “Plantarum historia universalis Oxoniensis,” appeared in 1680, fol. comprizing five sections of herbaceous plants, with numerous plates. This was called the second part of the work, the first, consisting or trees and shrubs, having been postponed, as the most easily to be finished at any time; but it never appeared *. In 1699, long after the author’s death, Jacob Bobart published a second volume, called the third part, which concludes the system, as far as regards herbaceous plants. The editor of the volume, in which there are many inaccuracies, claims for the author great honour as the inventor of a system. The outlines, however, of Morison’s system are evidently to be traced in the work of Csesalpinus, published in 1583, and in that of Conrad Gesner, and it is the opinion of sir J. E. Smith, whom we principally follow, that where he deviates from these writers, he has injured his own system. This great work could scarcely have been published at the expence of a private individual, had he not been liberally assisted by the contributions of his opulent Oxford friends, who took a patriotic interest in the performance. The original specimens, such at least as refer to Bobart’s share of the undertaking, are still preserved, and serve to remove every difficulty in case of an incomplete description or figure. Such assistance is very requisite, as to the cryptogamic part of the work, though authors have much commended those plates.

The labours and studies of Morison were cut short by an accidental death, similar to that of Tournefort, but more immediate. He received an injury from the pole of a ccach, in crossing one of the London streets, Nov. 9, 1683, and died next day, at his house in Green-street, Leicestersquare, aged sixty-three. He was buried in the neighbouring church of St. Martin’s-in-the Fields. A portrait prefixed to the posthumous volume, indicates Morison to have been, as Bobart describes him, a man of a healthy bodily frame, and of plain and open manners. He is recorded as having cultivated science for its own sake, with much less regard to his personal emolument than to the public good, a sordid love of gain having made no part of his character.- 1


According to a ms note in our copy of Granger, this first was after wards finished, but the whole consumed by an accidental fire at Oxford.


Rees’s Cyclopædia, by Sir J. E. Smith. —Pulteney’s Sketches. —Ath. Ox. vol. II.