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The Scottish Nation

GARDNER, GEORGE, an eminent botanist, was born, in May 1810, at Ardentinny, Argyleshire, on the west side of Loch Long, where his father, a native of Aberdeen, was gardener to the earl of Dunmore. In 1816, his father removed to Ardrossan, Ayrshire, having been appointed gardener there to the earl of Eglinton. He received the rudiments of his education at the parish school of that place, and he was afterwards placed at the grammar school of Glasgow, his parents having gone to reside in that city in 1822. After studying for the medical profession in the Andersonian university and the university of Glasgow, he obtained his diploma as surgeon from the faculty of physicians and surgeons of that city. He had early shown a decided taste for the science of botany, and having discovered, in one of his botanizing rambles in Stirlingshire, the rare Nuphar minima or pulima, growing in the lake at Mugdock castle, he was introduced to Sir William Jackson Hooker, then the distinguished professor of botany in the university of Glasgow, whose botanical classes he subsequently attended.

In 1836 Mr. Gardner published a work entitled ‘Musci Britannici, or Pocket Herbarium of British Mosses,’ arranged and named according to Hooker’s ‘British Flora,’ This work was very favourably received, and a copy of it having reached the duke of Bedford, he became a liberal patron, and subscribed fifty pounds, to defray the expense of Mr. Gardner’s proceeding to North Brazil, to explore the botanical riches of that luxuriant portion of South America. In the summer of 1836, he sailed from Liverpool, and arrived at Rio de Janeiro in July. He immediately began his explorations, and in the course of his investigations he reached as far north as the province of Goyaz, making frequent excursions to the Organ mountains. He returned through the interior of Brazil to Rio, where, in July 1841, he embarked for England. In his absence, several of his papers and letters were inserted by Sir William J. Hooker, in the ‘Journal of Botany.’

In 1842, he was elected professor of botany in the Andersonian university, Glasgow, but did not retain the appointment. In 1843, through the influence of Sir William J. Hooker, who had previously become curator of the Royal Gardens at Kew, he was appointed by the colonial government superintendent of the Botanical Gardens at Ceylon. On his arrival, he made extensive preparations for the completion of a flora of that island, and at his death he left large collections towards a complete ‘Flora Zeylonica.’ During his botanical excursions in the island, he discovered, within a few miles of Lornegall, the Upas tree, the celebrated poison-tree, which was long believed to grow nowhere else than in Java. In 1846, he published his ‘Travels in the Interior of Brazil, principally through the Northern Provinces and the Gold Districts during the years 1836-41,’ London, 562 pages, 8vo.

While on a visit to Lord Torrington, the governor of Ceylon, at Neuria Ellia Rest-House, the sanitarium of the island, he was suddenly attacked by apoplexy, and died in a few hours, 11th March 1849, in his 39th year. Amongst his numerous manuscripts he left one ready for the press, designed as an elementary work, on the botany of India.

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