Bartram, John

Bartram, John

(bär`trəm), 1699–1777, pioneer American botanist, b. near Darby, Pa. He had no formal schooling but possessed a keen mind and a great interest in plants. In 1728 he purchased land along the banks of the Schuylkill River near Philadelphia and planted there the first botanical garden in the United States; it still exists as a part of the Philadelphia park system. He made journeys in the Alleghenies and the Catskills and in the Carolinas and Florida in search of new plants. Among his correspondents were nearly all the great European botanists of the day. By exchanging specimens with them, Bartram introduced many American plants into Europe and established some European species in the New World. To his home and gardens came the famous Americans of his day and many distinguished European travelers. His Observations (1751) records a trip to Lake Ontario, and the journal of his Florida trip (1765–66) was published in William Stork's Description of East Florida (3d ed. 1769). His name is commemorated in a genus of mosses, Bartramia.

Bibliography

See E. Earnest, John and William Bartram (1940); A. Sutton, Exploring with the Bartrams (1963); A. Wulf, The Brother Gardeners (2009).

Bartram, John

(1699–1777) botanist; born near Darby, Pa. He developed an early interest in botany while growing up on his father's farm. After completing country school at age 12, he taught himself classical languages, medicine, and surgery from books. In 1728 he purchased land at Kingsessing, near Philadelphia, which he developed into the first botanical garden in the American colonies and where he conducted the first hybridization experiments in America. Around 1733 he began corresponding with English naturalist Peter Collinson, with whom he exchanged seeds and plant specimens. This relationship led to his correspondence with Swedish biologist and taxonomist Carl Linnaeus, who called Bartram "the greatest natural botanist in the world." By 1750, Bartram was acclaimed throughout Europe. He made frequent collecting expeditions from Canada to Florida, some with his botanist son William Bartram until the early 1770s. In 1743, he became a member of Benjamin Franklin's American Philosophical Society, and in 1765 was appointed botanist to King George III. A naturalist as well as a botanist, Bartram described and collected zoological specimens, proposed geological surveys of North American mineral sites, and argued that fossils be investigated scientifically, rather than exploited as curiosities. A Quaker, he demonstrated his opposition to slavery by freeing his slaves; his outspoken religious opinions caused him to be disowned by his coreligionists in the Society of Friends. Bartramia, a genus of mosses, was named in his honor.
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