Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Garden, Alexander

GARDEN, ALEXANDER (1730?–1791), botanist, was born at Charleston, South Carolina, about 1730. His father, Alexander Garden, was born in Scotland in 1685, and went out to Charleston in 1719 as a clergyman of the church of England, becoming rector of St. Philip's Church, and being chiefly remembered for a controversy in 1740 with the Rev. George Whitefield. He died in 1756. Garden was sent home to Scotland for his education, studied medicine at Edinburgh, where he graduated M.D., and was a pupil in botany of Alston. He returned to Charleston in 1752 (Smith, Correspondence of Linnæus, i. 287), and went in 1754 for a time as professor to King's (afterwards Columbia) College, New York, but in 1755 married and established himself as a medical practitioner in his native town. Though having a large practice and a delicate constitution, he managed to devote considerable time to the study of botany and zoology. He corresponded with John Bartram, Peter Collinson, Gronovius, John Ellis, and, after 1755, with Linnæus. In his letters he expresses ‘disgust and indignation’ at the inaccuracy of Catesby's ‘Natural History of Carolina,’ and shows himself, as Sir J. E. Smith says, ‘a thoroughgoing Linnean.’ In the twelfth edition of Linnæus's ‘Systema Naturæ’ his name is subjoined to many new or little known species of fish and reptiles, and he also studied the more obscure classes of animals. He sent many new plants to Europe, including several magnolias and the Gordonia, which was, at his request, to have been named after him. Ellis having, however, already named it, chose the Cape Jessamine, introduced by Richard Warner [q. v.], to bear the name Gardenia. In 1761 he was chosen a member of the Royal Academy of Upsala, and in 1773 a fellow of the Royal Society, though not admitted until 1783. In 1764 he published an essay on the medicinal properties of the Virginia pink-root, and in the following year he described the genera Stillingia and Fothergilla, dedicated to Benjamin Stillingfleet and John Fothergill; and he also contributed to the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ in 1775. In the war of independence he sided with England, sending a congratulatory address to Cornwallis on his success at Camden in 1780, and in 1783 he came to England with his wife and two daughters.

On his arrival in England he settled in Cecil Street, Strand, became generally respected for his benevolence, cheerfulness, and pleasing manners, and was made vice-president of the Royal Society. He died in Cecil Street, 15 April 1791, in his sixty-second year.

His son Alexander Garden (1757–1829), though educated at Westminster and Glasgow, joined the United States army, and received a grant of his father's estates, which had been confiscated. He afterwards published ‘Anecdotes of the Revolutionary War,’ 1822.

[Appleton's Cyclop. American Biog. p. 594; Ramsay's Hist. of South Carolina, vol. ii.; Rees's Cyclop.; Smith's Correspondence of Linnæus, i. 282–605; Loudon's Arboretum … Britann. p. 70.]

G. S. B.