Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Arnold, Joseph

ARNOLD, JOSEPH, M.D. (1782–1818), naturalist, was born 28 Dec. 1782 at Beccles, was apprenticed to a local surgeon named Crowfoot, and graduated M.D. Edin. 1807. In his youth he had directed much attention to botany, and made some communications to the 'Gentleman's Magazine.' He entered the British navy as surgeon in 1808, and, the navy being reduced after the war, in January 1815 we find him in medical charge of the Northampton, bound with female convicts to Botany Bay. Returning by way of Batavia in the Indefatigable, of Boston, the ship was burnt by carelessness on 22 Oct. 1815, destroying many of his journals, and his collection of insects from South America, New Holland, and the Straits of Sunda. After some excursions in Java with Sir Stamford Raffles, of which interesting accounts are preserved in the memoir by Mr. Dawson Turner, he returned home in 1816, but, longing for further opportunities of research in travel, he obtained employment as naturalist with Sir Stamford Raffles when he was appointed governor of Sumatra. He prepared himself for research on an extensive scale by study in London. Arriving at Bencoolen 22 March 1818, his second excursion to Passumah produced the discovery of the remarkable plant without stem or leaves named, after the governor and himself, Rafflesia Arnoldi, which is parasitic upon a species of wild vine, and has a huge flower three feet in diameter, and weighing 15lbs. This was described by Robert Brown in Trans. Linn. Soc. xiii. He made a rich collection of shells and fossils, but was cut off by fever at Padang. Sumatra, on one of the last days of July 1818. Sir T. S. Raffles, in recording his death, says: 'It is impossible I can do justice to his memory by any feeble encomiums I may pass upon his character. He was in every respect what he should have been; devoted to science and the acquisition of knowledge, and aiming only at usefulness.' He was elected F.L.S. 1815, and bequeathed his collection of shells and fossils to the Linnean Society.

[Memoir by Dawson Turner, Ipswich, 1849; Memoir of Sir T. S. Raffles, London, 1830; Trans. Linn. Soc. xiii. 201.]

G. T. B.