Nathaniel Wallich

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Nathaniel Wallich
Portrait of Nathaniel Wallich
From an old lithograph by T. H. Maguire
Born(1786-01-28)28 January 1786
Died28 April 1854(1854-04-28) (aged 68)
Alma materRoyal Academy of Surgeons
Known for
  • Tentamen Florae Nepalensis Illustratae
  • Plantae Asiaticae Rariores
Scientific career
Author abbrev. (botany)Wall.

Nathaniel Wallich FRS (28 January 1786 – 28 April 1854) was a medical doctor and botanist from Denmark. He worked in India; firstly in the Danish settlement near Calcutta and later for the East India Company. He was involved in the early development of the Calcutta Botanical Garden, describing many new plant species and developing a large collection with copies that he gave to collections in Europe. Several of the plants that he collected were named after him.

Biography[change | change source]

Early life and education[change | change source]

Nathaniel Wallich was born in a Jewish family in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1786 as Nathan ben Wulff. His father Wulff ben Wallich (or Wolff Wallich) was a rich merchant from Altona, a town near Hamburg, Germany, and then moved to Copenhagen late in the 18th century. Nathaniel changed his name to Nathan Wallich, later Nathaniel, as an adult.[1]

Wallich got the diploma of the Royal Academy of Surgeons at Copenhagen in 1806. At the end of the year he was appointed as doctor in the Danish colony of Serampore, then known as Frederiksnagore in Bengal (now in West Bengal). He sailed for India in April 1807 and arrived at Serampore the following November.[1]

He was an honorary doctor at the University of Copenhagen and member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.

In India[change | change source]

Because of bad health, Wallich spent the years 1811-1813 in the more temperate climate of Mauritius, where he continued his studies. From August 1814, Wallich became an Assistant Surgeon in the East India Company's service. Wallich was later appointed assistant to William Roxburgh, the East India Company's botanist in Calcutta.

By 1813 he took great interest in the flora and natural vegetation of India. He also went on expeditions to Nepal, West Hindustan, and lower Burma. Wallich travelled to Nepal in 1821, one of the very first Englishmen to go there, and returned with many new plants.[2] During 1837 and 1838, Nathaniel Wallich served as Professor of Botany in Calcutta Medical College.

He also published two important books, Tentamen Floræ Nepalensis Illustratæ (vols I-II, 1824–26) and Plantæ Asiaticæ Rariores (vols I-III, 1830–32).

Dr. Nathaniel Wallich took charge of the Oriental Museum of the Asiatic Society on 1 June 1814.[3] Wallich joined the East India Company's Botanical Garden in 1817 and served there until 1846 when he retired from the service.

Death[change | change source]

Wallich retired to London in 1847, and stayed there until his death seven years later. He had a son, George Charles Wallich, and a daughter, Hannah Sarah. Part of his collections are held at Kew Gardens, and known as the 'Wallich Herbarium'.[4]

Species named for Nathaniel Wallich[change | change source]

Schefflera wallichiana

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Judith M Taylor and Jules Janick. Lorenzo Da Ponte and Nathaniel Wallich: Jews in the Enlightenment,
  2. Stafleu, Frans A.; Cowan, Richard S. (1988). Taxonomic literature. Vol. vii: W-Z. Utrecht: Lubrecht & Cramer Ltd. p. 97. ISBN 9031308536. Available on line in Biodiversity Heritage Library
  3. Official website of Indian Museum Archived 2012-02-05 at the Wayback Machine,Biography of Nathaniel Wallich
  4. "Nathaniel Wallich". Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.
  5. Brummitt, R. K.; C. E. Powell (1992). Authors of Plant Names. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 1-84246-085-4.

Other websites[change | change source]