Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Aiton, William Townsend

AITON, WILLIAM TOWNSEND (1766–1849), botanist, the eldest son of William Aiton [see Aiton, William, 1731–1793], was born at Kew, 2 Feb. 1766. He was educated at Chiswick and Camberwell. At the age of sixteen he became assistant to his father, and attained some distinction as a landscape gardener, in which capacity he was employed by many of the nobility. On the death of his father in 1793 he was appointed to succeed him in the royal gardens at Kew and Richmond. He was much esteemed by George III and the royal family, and kept up a confidential correspondence with the Duke of Kent until the time of his death. On the accession of George IV Mr. Aiton was charged with the arrangement of the garden at the Pavilion at Brighton, as well as with many extensive and important alterations at Windsor. Many changes having taken place in the establishments of the royal gardens, he retired shortly after the accession of William IV to the charge of the Kew Botanic Garden and Pleasure Grounds, a post which he voluntarily resigned in 1841, still, however, living at Kew, but passing much of his time with his brother at Kensington; and it was at Kensington that he died on 9 Oct. 1849, being buried at Kew. In 1810–13 Mr. Aiton published a second and much-enlarged edition of his father's ‘Hortus Kewensis,’ in five volumes. In this he received a continuance of the help given to his father by Sir Joseph Banks and Dryander, while the latter volumes owe their scientific value to Robert Brown, who succeeded Dryander as curator of the Banksian herbarium. A useful epitome of this work, in one volume, was published in 1814. Owing, however, to the impossibility of keeping pace with the very rapid increase in the number of species brought into cultivation, neither of these works attained anything like the sale of the original edition. Mr. Aiton was one of the founders and an active fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society. To its ‘Transactions’ he contributed a paper on the cultivation of the cucumber, for which a silver medal was awarded him in 1817. A lithographed portrait by L. Poyot is in existence.

[Proceedings of Linnean Society, ii. 82–3; Postscript to 2nd ed. of Hortus Kewensis, v. 531–2.]

J. B.