Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bowie, James

BOWIE, JAMES (d. 1853), botanist, was born in London, and entered the service of the Royal Gardens, Kew, in 1810. In 1814 he was appointed botanical collector to the gardens in conjunction with Allan Cunningham. They went to Brazil, where they remained two years, making collections of plants and seeds. In 1817 Bowie was ordered to proceed to the Cape; here he worked with much energy, taking journeys into the interior, and sending home large collections of living and dried plants, as well as of drawings; the last are in the Kew herbarium, the dried specimens for the most part in the British Museum. A vote of the House of Commons having reduced the sum granted for botanical collectors, Bowie was recalled in 1823, taking up his residence at Kew. After four years of inactivity he set out again for the Cape, where he was for some years gardener to Baron Ludwig of Ludwigsberg. He became a correspondent of Dr. Harvey, who, in dedicating to him the genus Bowiea, says 'by many years of patient labour in the interior of South Africa he enriched the gardens of Europe with a greater variety of succulent plants than had ever been detected by any traveller.' He left his employment in or before 1841, and made journeys into the interior to collect plants for sale; his habits, however, were such as to interfere with his prospects, and he died in poverty in 1853.

[Gardeners' Chronicle, new ser. xvi. 568 (1881).]

J. B.