Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/McNab, William Ramsay

McNAB, WILLIAM RAMSAY, M.D. (1844–1889), botanist, born in 1844, was the only son of James McNab (1810–1878), who from 1849 to the time of his death was curator of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, a post which his father (William McNab) had previously held since 1810. McNab, after acting as assistant to Professor John Hutton Balfour [q. v.] at Edinburgh, and studying in Germany, graduated M.D. at Edinburgh in 1866. He began medical practice in 1867, but was appointed in 1870 to the professorship of natural history in the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, and in the following year he was the first to introduce to British students the facts and methods of Sachs. In March 1872 he was appointed to the chair of botany in the Royal College of Science, Dublin, which he held till his death from heart disease, on 3 Dec. 1889. Besides other appointments Dr. McNab was scientific superintendent of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin, and at the time of his death was Swiney lecturer on geology at the British Museum. His style as a lecturer was precise, lucid, and simple. He was the author of numerous communications to various societies on all branches of botany. His more important papers were on ‘Experiments on the Movement of Water in Plants’ (‘Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy,’ vol. xxxv.); ‘On the Development of the Flowers of Welwitschia mirabilis’ (‘Transactions of the Linnean Society,’ vol. xxviii.); ‘Revision of the Species of Abies’ (‘Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy,’ ii. 11). He was also the author of two botanical class-books, ‘Outlines of Morphology and Physiology,’ and ‘Outlines of Classification’ (Longman's ‘London Science Series,’ 1878).

[Obituary notice in Nature, 19 Dec. 1889, xli. 159; personal knowledge.]

A. C. H.