Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Catesby, Mark

CATESBY, MARK (1679?–1749), naturalist, was born, probably in London, about 1679. After studying natural science in London, he raised the means for starting on a voyage to the New World in 1710. After an absence of several years, spent in travelling over a very extensive district, Catesby returned to England in 1719, with a collection of plants, which was reported to have been the most perfect which had ever been brought to this country. This attracted the attention of men of science, especially Sir Hans Sloane and Dr. Sherard. Catesby remained in England for some time arranging and naming his specimens, a considerable number of which passed into the museum of Sir Hans Sloane. With some assistance from Sloane, Catesby again went to America in 1722, and eventually settled in Carolina. He returned to England in 1726, and at once set seriously to work in preparing materials for his large and best known work, ‘Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, with Observations on the Soil, Air, and Water.’ This book was accompanied by a new map, constructed by Catesby, of the districts explored. The first volume was published in 1731 and the second in 1743. There were upwards of 100 plates; all the figures of the plants being drawn and etched by Catesby himself. He also coloured all the first copies, and the tinted copies required were executed under his inspection. After the publication of this work, on 26 April 1733, he was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society. A second edition—which was revised by M. Edwards, with an appendix—was issued in 1748. A German translation, with an introduction by ‘M. Edwards du College Royal des Médecins de Londres,’ was published at Nüremberg in 1756. A third edition was required in 1771, to which a Linnæan index was appended. Catesby also produced (in 1737?) ‘Hortus Britanno-Americanus, or a Collection of 85 curious Trees and Shrubs, the production of North America, adapted to the Climate and Soil of Great Britain,’ fol., seventeen engravings. Many trees and shrubs were first introduced by him, and the publication of this volume added considerably to the introduction of American plants.

A West Indian genus of shrubs of the order Cinchonaceæ was named Catesbæa after this naturalist.

In 1747 Catesby read a paper before the Royal Society ‘On the Migration of Birds,’ which contained much new and striking evidence on the subject.

Catesby resided for some time in the Isle of Providence, making a collection of fishes and submarine productions. He published the results of this inquiry in a folio volume, entitled ‘Piscium, Serpentum, Insectorum aliorumque nonnullorum Animalium, nec non Plantarum quarundam, Imagines.’ An edition of this work appeared in Nüremberg, 1777.

Catesby died at his house in Old Street, London, on 23 Dec. 1749, aged 70, leaving a widow and two children.

[Pulteney's Biog. Sketches of Botany; Drake's Dict. of American Biog., Boston, 1872; Lindley and Moore's Treasury of Botany.]

R. H-t.