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The Scottish Nation
Roxburgh


ROXBURGH, a surname derived from the ancient town of that name, in Lower Teviotdale. The word is of Norman origin. In Kelham’s Dictionary it is thus given, “Rokeborugh, Roxburgh;” from roke, a rock, and boruth, -- perhaps originally written boruch, -- evidently the same with the Anglo-Saxon borh, burgh, ‘a borough.’ In charters of David I., the orthography is Rokesburg. It also appears as Roksburg, Rocesburg, Rochelburc, Rokesburch, Rosburg, or Rousburge. Some have urged that this is the proper appellation of the place, being most expressive of its beautiful situation; as in the supposed etymon of Montrose from Mons rosarum.

ROXBURTH, WILLIAM, an eminent physician and botanist, was born at Underwood, in the parish of Craigie, Ayrshire, June 29, 1759. After receiving the usual education at the parish school, he was sent to the university of Edinburgh, where he attended the medical classes; and, before he was eighteen years of age, was appointed surgeon’s mate on board of an East Indiaman. In this vessel he made two voyages to the East, after which he was induced to settle at Madras. Having early directed his attention to the study of botany, he communicated several interesting papers, on subjects in natural history, to the Royal Society, which were inserted in their Transactions; and occasionally transmitted to England some curious seeds and other productions of Asia, suspending the finer specimens in a mucilage of gum Arabic, to preserve them from the effects of the heat and moisture. In 1781 he was stationed at Samulcottah, where he paid particular attention to the cultivation of pepper, and various other plants, and also endeavoured to introduce the culture of silk, as well as to improve the manufacture of sugar. Some large collections of plants which he had made in the Carnatic he had the misfortune to lose, with his books and papers, in an inundation at Ingeram; but, with characteristic ardour, he recommenced making a fresh collection, and the Court of Directors sent him out a present of botanical books. In the autumn of 1793 he was appointed by the government of Bengal superintendent of the botanical garden recently established at Calcutta. On the formation of the Asiatic Society, he became one of its original members, and contributed several papers to their Researches; particularly one on the colouring matter of the lacca insect. In 1797 he visited England, on which occasion he married his first wife, and took his degree of M.D.

On his return to Calcutta, he sent several valuable communications to the Society for the Promotion of Arts, particularly as to the cultivation of hemp in Bengal, the growth of trees in India, &c., for which he received, at different times, three gold medals from that society. He also wrote several dissertations on the Hindoo method of cultivating the sugar-cane, which, together with remarks on the copper coins of the northern circars, were afterwards published in Dalrymple’s Oriental Repertory. During the time that he held the office of superintendent, he had made three different voyages for the benefit of his health, once to the Cape, and twice to Europe. In the summer of 1813 he left India for the last time, and, after some stay in London, he repaired to Edinburgh, where he died, April 10, 1815, in the 57th year of his age. He was twice married, and had children by both his wives. His collection of drawings of Indian plants, amounting to nearly 3,000, was sent to the Court of Directors, and published under the title of ‘Plants of the Coast of Coromandel,’ London, 1795, 1802, 2 vols. Folio. His works are:

Plants of the Coast of Coromandel; selected from Drawings and Descriptions presented to the Court of Directors of the East India Company. Lond. 1795, 1802, 2 vols, folio.
Botanical Description of a new species of Swietenia, or Mahogany; with Experiments and Observations on the Bark thereof, in order to determine and compare its powers with those of Peruvian Bark, for which it is proposed as a substitute. London, 1793, 4to.
An Essay upon the Natural Order of the Scitamineae. Calcutta, 4to.
A Meteorological Diary, &c., kept at Fort George in the East Indies. Phil. Trans. 1778, Abr. xiv. 332. Continuation, Ib. 1780, 681.
An Account of the Trigonometrical Operation, by which the Distance between the Meridians of the Royal Observatories of Greenwich and Paris has been determined. Ib. 1790, xvi. 649.
Chermes Lacca. Ib. 1791, xvii. 62.
Account of the Tusseh and Arrindy Silk-Worms of Bengal. Trans. Linn. Soc. 1802, vol. vii. p. 33.
A Botanical Description of Urseola Elastics, or Caoutchone vine of Sumatra and Pullo Pinang; with an Account of the Properties of its inspissated Juice, compared with those of the American Caoutchone. Nicholson’s Journal, iii., 435, 1799.
On the Culture, Properties, and Comparative Strength of Hemp, and other Vegetable Fibres, the Growth of the East Indies. Ib. xi. 32, 1805.
The Botanical and Economical Account of the Bassia Butyraces, or the East India Butter Tree. Ib. xix. 372, 1808.
On various Natural Productions of the East Indies. Ib. xxvii. 69, 1810.
Some Account of the Teak Tree of the East Indies. Ib. xxxiii. 348, 1812.
His general descriptive work of the plants of India, called ‘Flora Indica,’ did not appear till some years after his death. A complete edition, in three volumes, was published by his sons in 1832.


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