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,
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.