Kyd, Robert (DNB00)

KYD, ROBERT (d. 1793), founder of the Botanical Gardens, Calcutta, obtained a cadetship in 1764, was appointed ensign in the Bengal infantry 27 Oct. 1764, lieutenant 16 Oct. 1765, captain 3 April 1768, major 4 Sept. 1780, lieutenant-colonel 7 Dec. 1782. On the latter date he was appointed secretary to the military department of inspection in Bengal, which post he seems to have held until his death. He was a man of cultivated tastes, fond of botany and horticulture. About 1786 he laid out the Botanical Garden, near Calcutta, which was taken over by the company, and of which Dr. Roxburgh was appointed superintendent on Kyd's death. Sir Joseph Hooker, describing a visit to these gardens in 1848, has said that ‘they have contributed more useful and ornamental tropical plants to the public and private gardens of the world than any other establishment before or since’ (Himalayan Journals, i. 3–4). Kyd died at Calcutta 26 May 1793.

Derozario (Complete Monumental Register) states that Kyd was buried in the old burial-ground of Fort William, under a flat marble slab level with the ground, on the right of the entrance. A memorial urn, executed by the sculptor, Thomas Banks, was put up in the centre of the gardens, where it still stands. Some of Kyd's letters to Warren Hastings are in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 29169 f. 311, 29171 f. 327, 29172 ff. 40, 424), and other letters are among Lord Braybrooke's manuscripts (Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. i. 290 sq.)

Writers on India sometimes confuse Robert Kyd with Lieutenant-general Alexander Kyd, Bengal engineers, who built the government dockyard at Kidderpur, near Calcutta, which village is named after him. Alexander Kyd was the author of some tidal observations on the Hooghly, and died in London 25 Nov. 1826.

[Information supplied by the India Office. As the Cadet Papers there commence in 1789, it has not been possible to get details of Kyd's parentage, &c. Hunter's Gazetteer of Bengal, vol. viii. (Kidderpur); Murray's Handbook of Bengal; Derozario's Complete Monumental Register, Calcutta, 1815.]

H. M. C.