Pulteney, Richard

, a distinguished botanist and able physician, was born at Loughborough, Feb. 17, 1730. He first settled as a surgeon and apothecary at Leicester but having been educated as a Calvinistic dissenter, the people of that town, who chanced to have different prejudices, of course gave him but little support. He struggled against pecuniary difficulties with economy, and shielded his peace of mind against bigotry, in himself or others, by looking “through nature, up to nature’s God.” His remarks and discoveries were communicated first to the Gentleman’s Magazine, in 1750, as well as several subsequent years and he intermixed antiquarian studies with his other pursuits. His botanical papers printed by the royal society, on the Sleep of Plants, and the Rare Plants of Leicestershire, procured him the honour of election into that learned body in 1762. In 1764 he obtained a diploma of doctor of physic from Edinburgh, even without accomplishing that period of residence, then usually required, and now indispensable and his thesis on the cinchona officinalis amply justified the indulgence of the university.

Soon afterwards, Dr. Pulteney was acknowledged as a relation by the earl of Bath, who had imbibed a favourable opinion of his talents which circumstances induced him to attach himself to that nobleman as travelling physician. His lordship unfortunately died soon after, on which the subject of our memoir, becoming at a loss for a situation, hesitated whether to settle at London or elsewhere but he soon, decided in favour of Blandford, in Dorsetshire, where there happened to be a vacancy. Here he continued in great reputation, and extensive practice, till his death, which happened on the 13th of October 1801, to the deep regret of all who knew him, in the 72d year of his age. His disease was an inflammation in the lungs, of only a week’s duration.

Dr. Pulteney married, in 1779, Miss Elizabeth Galton, of Blandford, a lady who bore him no children, but whose society and attainments contributed very essentially to his happiness, and who has in every respect proved herself | worthy of her amiable and distinguished husband. His remains were interred at Langton, near Blandford', a tablet to his memory having been placed, by his widow, in the church of the last-mentioned town. This monument is decorated with a sprig of the Pultenaea stipularis, so called in honour of him by the president of the Linnaean society but in obedience to the strict commands of the deceased, the inscription is of the simplest kind.

As an author, Dr. Pulteney was conspicuously distinguished by his “General view of the Writings of Linnæus,” and his “Sketches of the progress of Botany in England.” The former, published in 1782, in one volume 8vo, has contributed more than any work, except perhaps the Tracts of Stillingfleet, to diffuse a taste for Linnaean knowledge in this country. It proved a very popular book, and a new edition was soon called for. This, however, did not appear during the author’s life but has been published by his learned and much valued friend Dr. Maton, who has prefixed to this handsome quarto, portraits of Linnæus and his biographer, with a life of the latter. A translation of Linnæus’s celebrated manuscript diary of his own life is subjoined.

The “Sketches of the progress of Botany,” making two octavo volumes, appeared in 1790, but did not become so popular as the Account of Linnæus. These volumes, nevertheless, abound with original and valuable information nor is it any reproach to the memory of their intelligent author, that they do not contain, as he was well aware, all that might have been collected on every subject. Their most learned readers will ever be more sensible of their merits than their defects.

Dr. Pulteney had been associated with the Linnsean society soon after its first institution, and he ever retained a great attachment to that body, as well as to its founder. Several of his papers appear in the Transactions of the Society and he gave a final proof of his regard in the bequest of his valuable museum of natural history. He stipulated that his collections should always be kept separate from any others which the society might possess; and he provided that it should be at the option of the members, either to keep this museum entire, or to dispose of it, in order to raise a fund, whose interest should be expended annually in a medal for the best botanical paper read before the society in the course of the year. It was | without hesitation determined, that these treasures should be preserved entire, as the best and most useful memorial of a benefactor to science, to whom a large portion of this corporate body were individually and strongly attached. Few men have enjoyed more entirely the respect and affection of his acquaintance than Dr. Pulteney. An air of urbanity and gaiety was diffused over his countenance and manners, which bespoke the simplicity, candour, and liberality of his mind. His ardour for science was unbounded; and as lively at the close of his life as at the beginning of his literary career. His religion was unaffected, and devoid of bigotry or intolerance, the only feelings which he contemplated without sympathy or indulgence. His conversation, like his morals, was spotless; and his cheerfulness flowed from the never-failing spring of a benevolent and honest heart. 1


Rees’s Cyclopædia by sir J. E. Smith. —Gent. Mag. LXXL