Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Forsyth, William (1737-1804)

648397Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 20 — Forsyth, William (1737-1804)1889Benjamin Daydon Jackson

FORSYTH, WILLIAM (1737–1804), gardener, was born at Old Meldrum, Aberdeenshire, in 1737. In 1763 he came to London, and was employed in the Apothecaries' Garden at Chelsea under Philip Miller, whom he succeeded in 1771. Thirteen years later he was appointed superintendent of the royal gardens of St. James and Kensington. Soon after coming to London he gave much attention to the growth of trees, and brought out a plaister, the application of which he asserted would cause new growth in place of previously diseased or perished wood. For this he was accorded a vote of thanks in both houses of parliament and a pecuniary reward; but the efficacy of the plaister was disputed by Thomas Andrew Knight and others, its composition differing but slightly from similar preparations commonly in use in nurseries and plantations. Several letters on this topic will be found in the volumes of the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ cited below.

In 1791 he published his ‘Observations on the Diseases, Defects, and Injuries of Fruit and Forest Trees,’ and in 1802 his ‘Treatise on the Culture and Management of Fruit Trees,’ which reached a seventh edition in 1824. He also contributed a paper on gathering apples and pears to Hunter's ‘Georgical Essays,’ and a ‘Botanical Nomenclature’ in 1794, 8vo. He was a fellow of the Linnean and Antiquaries Societies. He died 25 July 1804, at his official residence, Kensington. The plant named Forsythia after Forsyth in Thomas Walter's ‘Flora Caroliniana,’ 1788, p. 153, is now designated Decumaria (cf. Bentham and Hooker, Genera Plantarum, i. 642).

[Gent. Mag. 1804, vol. lxxiv. pt. ii. p. 787, 1805, vol. lxv. pt. i. pp. 431 (typ. err. 341), 432; Nouv. Biog. Gén. xviii. 210; Field's Mem. Bot. Gard. Chelsea, 58–90 (not continuous); Johnson's Hist. Eng. Gard. 250.]

B. D. J.