Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lambert, Aylmer Bourke

LAMBERT, AYLMER BOURKE (1761–1842), botanist, was born at Bath, 2 Feb. 1761. He was the only son of Edmund Lambert of Boyton House, near Heytesbury, Wiltshire, by his first wife, Hon. Bridget Bourke, heiress of John, viscount Mayo, and eighth in descent from Richard Lambert, sheriff of London, who bought Boyton in 1572 (see pedigree in Sir R. C. Hoare's South Wiltshire, ‘Heytesbury Hundred,’ p. 203). A collector from his boyhood, Lambert formed a museum at Boyton before he was old enough to go to school. When twelve he was sent to Hackney School, then under a Mr. Newcome, and here he kept up his taste for collecting, and especially for botany. He spent some of his vacations with his stepmother's brother, Henry Seymer, at Hanford, Dorset, and there made the acquaintance of Dr. Richard Pulteney [q. v.] of Blandford, and of the Dowager Duchess of Portland, whose herbarium he afterwards purchased. Lambert matriculated as a commoner at St. Mary Hall, Oxford, 26 Jan. 1779, but never graduated. At the university he made the acquaintance of a brother botanist, Daniel Lysons [q. v.], the topographer, and shortly afterwards came to know Joseph Banks and James Edward Smith.

On the foundation of the Linnean Society in 1788 Lambert became a fellow, and from 1796 till his death—a period of nearly fifty years—acted as vice-president, being the last survivor of the original members (Nichols, Lit. Illustr. vi. 835). His contributions to its ‘Transactions’ extend from vol. iii. (1794) to vol. xvii. (1837), and include various papers, zoological as well as botanical, on such subjects as the Irish wolf-dog, Bos frontalis, the blight of wheat, oak-galls, &c. In 1791 Lambert was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and he also joined the Society of Antiquaries, and was elected a member of numerous foreign societies. On his father's death in 1802 he removed from Salisbury to Boyton, where he entertained many eminent foreign naturalists, and formed an herbarium of some thirty thousand specimens. This collection, of the sources of which there is a full account by David Don in Lambert's 'Pinus,' vol. ii., reprinted with some abridgment in Sir R. C. Hoare's 'History of Wiltshire,' was at all times freely open to botanical students. Sir J. E. Smith styles Lambert 'one of the most ardent and experienced botanists of the present age,' and his skill is shown by his recognition for the first time of Carduus tuberosus and Centaurea nigrescens, and by his first independent work, 'A Description of the genus Cinchona,' published in 1797. This work, dedicated to Banks and the Linnean Society, describes eight species, mostly from Bank's specimens. Towards the close of his life, finding that Boyton did not suit his health, Lambert took a house at Kew Green, where he died 10 Jan. 1842. His library and herbarium were subsequently dispersed by auction, Ruiz and Pavon's Chilian Peruvian specimens being purchased the British Museum. Lambert married Catherine, daughter of Richard Bowater of Allesley, Warwickshire, hut she died before him, leaving no issue.

An oil portrait of Lambert by Russell, now at the Linnean Society's rooms, was engraved by Holl, and an engraving by W. Evans from a drawing by H. Edridge was published in Cadell's 'Contemporary Portraits' in 1811. Besides various species of plants that bear his name, Smith dedicated to his friend the genus Lambertia among Australian Proteaccæ, and Martius founded a genus Aylmeria, not now maintained.

Lambert's chief work, to which his paid assistant, David Don [q. v.], was a large contributor, was his monograph of the genus 'Pinus,' one of the most sumptuous botanical works ever issued. Of this the first volume, comprising forty-three folio coloured plates and dedicated to Banks, appeared in 1803; the second, comprising twelve plates, dedicated to Sir R. C. Hoare, in 1824. Of the second edition, vol. i., containing thirty-six plates, appeared in 1828; vol. ii., with thirty-five plates, in 1828; and vol. iii with seventeen plates, in 1837. A quarto edition in two volumes, dedicated to William IV, appeared in 1832. Besides this he published in 1821 'An Illustration of the Genus Cinchona,' 4to, dedicated to Humboldt, describing twenty-one species, and a translation of 'An Eulogium on Don Hippolito Ruiz Lopez,' 1831, 8vo. Lambert's copy of Hudson's 'Flora Anglica,' the manual of his youth, with his manuscript notes, is in the library of the British Museum.

[Athenæum. 1842, p. 1137; Gent. Mag. 1842, i. 667–8: Proceedings of the Linnean Society, i. 137; Gardeners' Chronicle, 1842, pp. 271. 439; Rees's Cyclopædia.]

G. S. B.