John Bartram

John Bartram

Infobox Scientist
name = John Bartram
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caption =John Bartram by Howard Pyle"'
birth_date = March 23, [ [ John Bartram of Pennsylvania ] at] 1699
birth_place = Darby, Pennsylvania
death_date = September 22, 1777
death_place = Philadelphia
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nationality = American
ethnicity =
field = botanist
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John Bartram (OldStyleDate|2 June|1699|23 May, Darby, Pennsylvania - September 22, 1777, Philadelphia) was an early American botanist and horticulturalist. Carolus Linnaeus said he was the "greatest natural botanist in the world." [Duyker, Edward, Nature's Argonaut. Daniel Solander 1733-1782, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 1988, p66]

Bartram was born into a Quaker farm family in colonial Pennsylvania. He considered himself a plain farmer, with no formal education beyond the local school, although he had a lifelong interest in medicine and medicinal plants, and read widely. His botanical career started with a small area of his farm devoted to growing plants he found interesting; later he made contact with European and Asian botanists interested in North American plants, and developed his hobby into a thriving business. He came to travel extensively in the eastern American colonies collecting plants, from Lake Ontario in the north, to Florida in the south and the Ohio River in the west. Many of his acquisitions were transported to collectors in Europe.

Bartram is considered the "father of American Botany," and was one of the first practicing Linnaean botanists in North America. His plant specimens were forwarded to Linnaeus, Dillenius and Gronovius and he assisted Linnaeus' student Pehr Kalm during his extended collecting trip to North America in 1748-1750. His 16 acre botanic garden, Bartram's Garden in Kingsessing on the west bank of the Schuylkill, about three miles (5 km) from the center of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is frequently cited as the first true botanic collection in North America. He was one of the co-founders, with Benjamin Franklin, of the Junto in 1743.

Contact with other botanists

Bartram was particularly instrumental in sending seeds from the New World to European gardeners: many North American trees and flowers were first introduced into cultivation in Europe by this route. Beginning ca. 1733, Bartram's work was assisted by his association with the English Protestant merchant Peter Collinson. Collinson, himself a lover of plants, shared Bartram's new plants with friends and fellow gardeners. Early Bartram collections went to Lord Petre, Philip Miller at the Chelsea Physic Garden, Mark Catesby, the Duke of Richmond, and the Duke of Norfolk. Robert James Petre, 8th Baron Petre of Thorndon Hall, Essex was the foremost collector of American trees and shrubs in Europe. Earl Petre's untimely death in 1743 led to his American tree collection being auctioned off to Woburn, Goodwood and other large English country estates; and thereafter Collinson became Bartram's chief London agent.

"Bartram's Boxes" as they then became known, were regularly sent to Peter Collinson every fall for distribution in England to a wide list of clients, including the Duke of Argyll, James Gordon, James Lee, and John Busch, progenitor of the exotic Loddiges nursery in London. The boxes generally contained 100 or more varieities of seeds, and sometimes included dried plant specimens and natural history curiosities as well. Live plants were more difficult and expensive to send and were reserved for Collinson and a few special correspondents.

In 1765 George III gave Bartram a pension as King's Botanist for North America, a post he held until his death. With this position, Bartram's seeds and plants also went to Kew Gardens. He was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm in 1769.

Most of John Bartram's many plant discoveries were named by botanists in Europe. He is best known today for the discovery of the Franklin Tree, "Franklinia alatamaha" in southeastern Georgia in 1765, later named by his son William Bartram. Bartram's name is remembered in the North American genera of mosses, "Bartramia", and in plants such the North American service berry, "Amelanchier bartramiana", and the subtropical tree "Commersonia" "bartramia" (Christmas Kurrajong) growing from the Bellinger River in coastal eastern Australia to Cape York, Vanuatu and Malaysia.


Bartram was married twice, firstly in 1723 to Mary Maris (d. 1727), who bore him two sons, Richard and Isaac, and after her death, in 1729 to Ann Mendenhall (1703-1789), who gave birth to five boys and four girls. His third son, William Bartram (1739-1823) was to become a famous botanist, natural history artist, and ornithologist, in his own right, and author of "Travels Through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida,…." Philadelphia, James & Johnson, 1791.

The family business in North American plants was continued by Bartram's sons John Bartram, Jr. and William Bartram after the American Revolution, and the botanic garden grew through three generations of the Bartram family. Bartram's Garden remained the major botanic garden in Philadelphia until the last Bartram heirs sold out in 1850.

John Bartram High School in Philadelphia is named after him.

See also

*Bartram's Garden, Bartram's house and original botanical garden (circa 1728)
*William Bartram
*Peter Collinson
*Humphry Marshall


id = PMID:11612729
title=The medical botany of John Bartram.
periodical=Pharmacy in history

*Edmund Berkeley and Dorothy Smith Berkeley, "The Life and Travels of John Bartram: From Lake Ontario to the River St. John." (Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1982).

*Edmund Berkeley and Dorothy Smith Berkeley, eds., "The Correspondence of John Bartram 1734-1777." (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1992).

*William Darlington, ed., Memorials of John Bartram and Humphry Marshall. (Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston, 1849).

* Duane Isely, "One hundred and one botanists" (Iowa State University Press, 1994), pp. 80-81

External links

* [ The Memorable Bartrams.]
* [ John Bartram's house and garden.]
* [ John Bartram biographical information]
* [ Small biography of Bartram]

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