Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Reeves, John (1774-1856)

REEVES, JOHN (1774–1856), naturalist, youngest son of the Rev. Jonathan Reeves of West Ham, Essex, was born on 1 May 1774. Left an orphan at an early age, he was educated at Christ's Hospital and afterwards entered the counting-house of a tea-broker, where he gained so thorough a knowledge of teas as to recommend him, in 1808, to the office of inspector of tea in England, in the service of the East India Company. In 1812 he proceeded to China as assistant, and subsequently became chief inspector of tea in the company's establishment at Canton. Here he devoted his leisure to investigating the resources of the country and to the pursuit of various branches of science. He procured specimens of natural products, especially such as promised to be of use or likely to serve as ornaments, and transmitted them to England. In this way he contributed very largely to the museums and gardens of this country, besides furnishing material for study to various learned societies, especially the Horticultural Society. The Wistaria sinensis was thus introduced into this country. The drawings by native artists of fish, supplemented by specimens sent by him, furnished the groundwork of Sir John Richardson's ‘Report on the Ichthyology of the Seas of China and Japan’ (Brit. Assoc. Rep. 1845). A great number of these and other drawings, by native artists, are now preserved in the natural history department of the British Museum.

Reeves became a fellow of the Royal and Linnean societies in 1817. His sole literary production appears to have been ‘An Account of some of the Articles of the Materia Medica employed by the Chinese,’ which was published in the ‘Transactions of the Medical Botanical Society,’ 1828.

Reeves returned to England in 1831, and resided at Clapham, where he died on 22 March 1856.

[Proc. Linn. Soc. 1855–6, pp. xliii–xlv; Roy. Soc. Cat.]

B. B. W.