Bartram, William

Bartram, William,

1739–1823, American naturalist, b. Philadelphia; son of John BartramBartram, John
, 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
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. He is known chiefly for his Travels (1791), in which he describes his journey (1773–77) through the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida and areas to the west. His book vividly portrays the plants and wildlife of the country and lists 215 native birds, the most complete list of that time. Bartram's influence is seen in the works of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Chateaubriand, and other writers who found his book an unexcelled source of descriptions of the American wilderness and its inhabitants.


See T. Hallock and N. E. Hoffmann, ed., William Bartram, The Search for Nature's Design: Selected Art, Letters, and Unpublished Writings (2010).

Bartram, William

(1739–1823) botanist; born in Kingsessing (Philadelphia), Pa. As a youth he showed a talent for drawing specimens collected by his father, John Bartram, America's first botanist, but he first worked as a merchant and trader (1757–61). In 1765 he accompanied his father on an expedition to Florida, and remained in the American south, drawing natural flora, gathering botanical specimens, becoming an accomplished ornithologist, and befriending both colonial planters and members of indigenous tribes. After his father's death (1777), he returned to Pennsylvania to become a partner with his brother John Bartram to care for his father's botanical garden (1777–1812). He declined a professorship of botany at the University of Pennsylvania (1782), preferring to write on natural history and his observations on Indians; his literary accounts of his travels greatly influenced the 19th-century romantic movement; Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia etc. (1791) is regarded as his masterpiece. In 1786, William Bartram was elected to the American Philosophical Society. He remained active as a botanist, dying suddenly after writing a description of a plant.