Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sherard, William

SHERARD, WILLIAM (1659–1728), botanist, eldest son of George Sherwood or Sherard, gentleman, by Mary, his second wife, was born at Bushby, Leicestershire, on 27 Feb. 1659. William, whose surname usually appears as Sherard, was educated at Merchant Taylors' school, and on 11 June 1677 was elected to St. John's College, Oxford, where he graduated B.C.L. on 11 Dec. 1683, and became a fellow. He proceeded D.C.L. on 23 June 1694.

Meanwhile he had begun a series of prolonged foreign tours, with permission of the college, which granted him leave of absence from 1685 for three periods of five years each. Between 1686 and 1688 he studied botany in Paris under Tournefort, and in the summer of 1688 spent some time at Leyden with Paul Hermann. Subsequently he visited Geneva, Rome, and Naples, and he also examined plants in Cornwall and Jersey. He supplied lists of the plants that he saw to Ray. Those which he observed in Cornwall and Jersey Ray published in his ‘Synopsis methodica Stirpium Britannicarum,’ 1690; while his list of noteworthy plants seen in Geneva, Rome, and Naples, appears in Ray's ‘Stirpium Europæarum … Sylloge,’ 1694.

After a visit to England in the winter of 1689–90 he became tutor to Sir Arthur Rawdon, then nineteen years old, and from the summer of 1690 till the spring of 1694 lived chiefly at Moira, co. Down. Later in 1694 he made a tour on the continent as tutor to Charles, viscount Townsend. In February 1695 he was busy editing Hermann's manuscripts for the benefit of the widow, and about the middle of the year he started on a journey through France and Italy with Wriothesley, eldest son of William, lord Russell [q. v.], returning probably in December 1699. It was on this journey that he appears to have first contemplated a continuation of Bauhin's ‘Pinax,’ a project to which he devoted all his spare time during the rest of his life.

Between the autumn of 1700 and the spring of 1702 he was at Badminton, acting as tutor to Henry, second duke of Beaufort. The surroundings were uncongenial, but he found consolation in botanical work for Ray and others. About June 1702 he was appointed a ‘commissioner for the sick and wounded, and for the exchange of prisoners;’ but next year he became consul for the Turkey Company at Smyrna, and set out in July. Owing to his continued absence his fellowship was declared void on 21 April 1703. At Smyrna he pursued antiquarian researches as well as botanical studies. In 1705, in company with Dr. Antonio Picenini, he visited the seven churches of Asia Minor, and copied many inscriptions. In 1709 and again in 1716, when he was accompanied by Dr. Samuel Lisle [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Norwich, he made other journeys in Asia Minor, transcribing inscriptions, which, with copies of the Monumenta Teïa and the Sigean inscription, he sent to England. Many of these were published by Edmund Chishull [q. v.] in his ‘Antiquitates Asiaticæ’ (1728). His manuscript copies of others are in the British Museum.

In 1711 Sherard purchased a country house at Sedi-Keui, seven miles out of Smyrna. The same year he undertook a botanical excursion to Halicarnassus. Sherard quitted Smyrna late in 1716, or early the following year, and returned at Christmas 1717 to London. In 1718 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and he served on its council the two following years. He had amassed a considerable fortune, but until 1724 lived chiefly at a small house in Barking Alley, working at his collections. In 1724 he, with his sister, took a larger house on Tower Hill. He made further excursions on the continent in 1721, 1723, and 1727, visiting Boerhaave in Holland, and bringing John James Dillenius [q. v.] back with him in August 1721 to assist in the ‘Pinax.’ For some years a quarrel with Sir Hans Sloane [q. v.], with the result that Sloane's herbarium was closed to Sherard, retarded the progress of that work, but a reconciliation took place in December 1727.

Sherard died in London on 11 Aug. 1728, and was buried at Eltham, where his brother James [q. v.] had a residence, on the 19th of that month. He bequeathed 3,000l. to found a chair for botany at Oxford, nominating Dillenius as the first professor. His natural history books, drawings, and paintings, with the manuscript of his ‘Pinax,’ were left to the library of the ‘Physic Garden’ at Oxford, the rest of his library to St. John's College.

Sherard occupied a high position among the botanists of his time, and his intercourse with the leading men in the science was intimate and frequent. He possessed a good knowledge for the time of cryptogamous plants. He was generous in distributing seeds and dried plants, and was an unfailing patron of deserving naturalists; but while aiding others in their works, he wrote little himself. Only one work, and that published under initials, came from his pen, viz., ‘Schola Botanica, sive catalogus plantarum quas ab aliquot annis in Horto Regio Parisiensi studiosis indigitavit … J. P. Tournefort … ut et P. Hermanni … Paradisi Batavi Prodromus, in quo plantæ … recensentur. Edente in lucem S. W. A. [i. e. Sherardo Wilhelmo Anglo],’ 12mo, Amsterdam, 1689. He contributed papers to the Royal Society (Phil. Trans. 1700–21) on ‘the way of making several China varnishes;’ on ‘the strange Effects of the Indian Varnish, wrote by Dr. J. del Papa;’ on ‘a new Island raised near Sant' Erini;’ and on ‘the Poyson Tree in New England.’

He edited the manuscript and wrote a preface for Paul Hermann's ‘Paradisus Batavus,’ 4to, Leyden, 1698; he also assisted Vaillant with his ‘Botanicon Parisiense,’ and Ray with the concluding volume of the ‘Historia Plantarum,’ in which were included his ‘Observations’ on the first two volumes. Sherard's manuscript, endorsed by Ray, is preserved in the botanical department at the Natural History Museum; while the third edition of Ray's ‘Synopsis’ was published by Dillenius under Sherard's inspection. To Catesby he supplied the names of the plants in his ‘Natural History of Carolina,’ besides giving pecuniary assistance. He likewise helped the Sicilian botanist, Paolo Boccone. Vaillant, Pontedera, and Dillenius each named different plants Sherardia in his honour, and Dillenius's appellation was adopted by Linnæus.

[Journ. Bot. 1874, pp. 129 sq. (with notes and manuscripts kindly lent by the author of that article, B. D. Jackson); Gent. Mag. 1796, ii. 811; Pulteney's Hist. and Biogr. Sketches, ii. 141; Nichols's Illustr. Lit. i. 339, &c.; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 272, 320, iii. 652–4; Martyn's Dissertations on Virgil, pp. xl–xli; Chishull's Antiq. Asiat. pref.; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. iv. 713; Wilson's Hist. of Merchant Taylors' School; Boccone's Museo di Piante, pref.]

B. B. W.