Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Clayton, John (1693-1773)

507325Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 11 — Clayton, John (1693-1773)1887Robert Hunt

CLAYTON, JOHN (1693–1773), botanist, was born at Fulham in 1693. His father was the attorney-general of Virginia, and the son left England and joined him in 1705. He appears to have studied medicine, botany, and, to some extent, chemistry. He sent to the Royal Society in 1739 a statement of 'Experiments concerning the Spirit of Coals,' which paper was published in the 'Philosophical Transactions.' Through the influence of his father Clayton was appointed secretary of Gloucester county, which office he held for many years. His position allowed him the leisure for studying the soil and atmospheric phenomena affecting the vegetation of the state, and for collecting specimens of its flora. Eventually he sent to the Royal Society the results of his observations, which were published in volumes xvii. xviii. and xli. of the 'Philosophical Transactions.' These papers secured him the friendship of many of the European naturalists; especially he corresponded with the celebrated Dutch naturalists, the brothers Gronoy or Gronovius. To these Clayton forwarded dried plants, and in connection with the celebrated Swedish naturalist, John Frederick Gronovius, they published 'Flora Virginica exhibens Plantas quas in Virginia Clayton collegit,' Leyden, 1739 and 1745. These parts were reissued after Clayton's death in 1782. This work was the first flora of Virginia published, and it contained many new genera. Gronovius (Laurence, as his brother John Frederick died in 1760) affixed the name of Clayton to a genus of plants. The Claytonias are perennial, rare in cultivation; but the C. virginica is sometimes met with. These plants are popularly known in America by the name of 'spring beauty', from the early season at which they flower. Clayton died in 1773.

[Barton's Medical and Physical Journal; Allibone's Biographical Dictionary; The Flora of Virginia, 1762; Philosophical Transactions; Lindley and Moore's Treasury of Botany; Rose's Biographical Dictionary.]

R. H-t.