Knapp, John Leonard (DNB00)


KNAPP, JOHN LEONARD (1767–1845), botanist, born at Shenley, Buckinghamshire, 9 May 1767, was son of Primatt Knapp, rector of Shenley. Educated at Thame grammar school, Knapp entered the navy, but finding the sea unsuited to his health, resigned and subsequently served successively in the Herefordshire and Northamptonshire militia, becoming a captain in the latter. He lived for a time at Powick, near Worcester, and was then in the habit of making long summer botanical excursions. On one of these he visited Scotland in company with George Don [q. v.], and collected several of the rarest species of British grasses. In 1804 he published ‘Gramina Britannica, or Representations of the British Grasses on 119 coloured plates, with Descriptions,’ 4to, the figures being executed by himself. This edition was, with the exception of a hundred copies, destroyed by a fire at Bensley's, the printers, and the book was not reissued until 1842. In 1818 Knapp published anonymously a poem entitled ‘Arthur, or the Pastor of the Village,’ and between 1820 and 1830 a series of articles, under the title of ‘The Naturalist's Diary,’ in ‘Time's Telescope.’ These formed the germ of his most successful work, the ‘Journal of a Naturalist,’ a botanical companion to White's ‘Selborne,’ which was published anonymously in 1829, and went through three editions during his lifetime. He lived till 1813 at Llanfoist, near Abergavenny, and subsequently at Alveston, near Bristol, where he died 29 April 1845. In 1804 he married Lydia Frances, daughter of Arthur Freeman of Antigua, by whom he had seven children; two sons and a daughter survived him.

Knapp became in 1796 a fellow of the Linnean Society, and was also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. The genus of grasses previously named Mibora by Adanson was called Knappia by Smith, and Rhynchoglossum of Blume was similarly renamed by F. Bauer.

[Proc. Linnean Soc. i. 244; Athenæum, 1845, p. 463; Life-lore, 1889, i. 257.]

G. S. B.

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