Page:1902 Encyclopædia Britannica - Volume 26 - AUS-CHI.pdf/251

This page needs to be proofread.

B E N T H A M 219 naval organization, one of the most remarkable being the 1842 he removed to Pontrilas in Herefordshire. His chief invention with Marc Isambard Brunei, whom he brought occupation for some succeeding years was his contributions to England, of the machinery for making pulley-blocks. to the Prodromus Systematis Naturalis Regni Vegetabilis, His son, George Bentham, had neither a school nor college which was being carried on by his friend, Alphonse de education, but early acquired the power of giving sustained Candolle. In all these dealt with some 4730 species. and concentrated attention to any subject that occupied In 1854 he found the maintenance of a herbarium and him—an essential condition of the success he attained ibrary too great a tax on his means. He therefore as perhaps the greatest systematic botanist of the 19th offered them to the Government on the understanding century. Another was his remarkable linguistic aptitude. that they should form the foundation of such necessary At the age of six to seven he could converse in French, aids to research in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. German, and Russian, and he learnt Swedish during a At the same time he contemplated the abandonment of short residence in Sweden, when little older. At the close botanical work. Fortunately, he yielded to the persuaof the war with France, the Benthams made a long tour sion of Sir William Hooker, Bindley, and other scientific through that country, staying two years at Montauban, friends. In 1855 he took up his residence in London, and where Bentham studied Hebrew and mathematics in the worked at Kew for five days a week, with a brief summer Protestant Theological School. They eventually settled holiday, from this time onwards till the end of his life. As in the neighbourhood of Montpellier, where Sir Samuel his friend Asa Gray wrote : “With such methodical habits, purchased a large estate. with freedom from professional or administrative functions, The mode in which George Bentham was attracted to which consume the time of most botanists, with steady the botanical studies, which became the occupation of his devotion to his chosen work, and with nearly all authentic life, is noteworthy. For it was through the applicability material and needful appliances at hand, or within reach, it to them of logical methods which he had imbibed from is not so surprising that he should have undertaken and have his uncle’s writings, and not from any special attraction to so well accomplished such a vast amount of work, and he natural history pursuits. While studying at Angouleme, a has the crowning merit and happy fortune of having copy of de Candolle’s Flore Franqaise fell into his hands completed all that he undertook.” The Government, in and he was struck with the analytical tables for identifying 1857, sanctioned a scheme for the preparation of a series plants. He immediately proceeded to test their use on of Floras, or descriptions in the English language of the the first that presented itself. The result was successful indigenous plants of British colonies and possessions. and he continued to apply it to every plant he came across. Bentham began with the Flora Hongkongensis in 1861, A visit to London in 1823 brought him into contact with which was the first comprehensive work on any part of the brilliant circle of English botanists. In 1826, at the the little-known flora of China. This was followed by pressing invitation of his uncle, he agreed to act as his the Flora Australiensis, in seven volumes (1863-78), the secretary, at the same time entering at Lincoln’s Inn and first flora of any large continental area that had ever been reading for the Bar. He was called in due time, and finished. His greatest work was the Genera Plantarum, in 1832 held his first and last brief. The same year commenced in 1862, and concluded in 1883 in collaboraJeremy Bentham died, leaving his property to his nephew. tion with Sir Joseph Hooker, “the greater portion being,” His father s inheritance had fallen to him the previous as Sir Joseph Hooker tells us, “the product of Bentham’s year. He was now in a position of modest independence, indefatigable industry.” As age gradually impaired his and able to pursue undistractedly his favourite studies. bodily powers, he seemed at last only to live for the comFor a time these were divided between botany, juris- pletion of this monumental work. When the last revise prudence, and logic, in addition to editing his father’s of the last sheet was returned to the printer, the stimulus professional papers. Bentham’s first publication was his was withdrawn : his powers seemed suddenly to fail him. Catalogue des Plantes Indigenes des Pyrenees et du Pas He commenced a brief autobiography. The pen with Languedoc (Paris, 1826), the result of a careful exploration which lie had written his two greatest works broke in his of the Pyrenees in company with Dr Walker Arnott (after- hand in the middle of a page. He accepted the omen, wards professor of Botany in the University of Glasgow). laid aside the unfinished manuscript, and patiently awaited It is interesting to notice that in it Bentham adopted the the not distant end. He died on the 10th September principle from which he never deviated, of citing nothing 1884, within a fortnight of his 84th birthday. at second-hand, or any fact or reference which he had not _ The scientific world has received the Genera Plantarum himself independently verified. This was followed by with as unanimous an assent as was accorded to the Species articles on various legal subjects : on codification, in which Plantarum of Linnaeus. Bentham possessed, as Professor he disagreed with his uncle, on the laws affecting larceny, Oliver has remarked, “ an insight of so special a character and on the law of real property. But the most remarkable as to deserve the name of genius, into the relative value of production of this period was the Outline of a New System characters for practical systematic work, and as a consequence °f Logic, with a Critical Examination of Dr Whately’s of this, a sure sifting of essentials from non-essentials in each Elements of Logic (1827). In this the principle of the respective grade.” His preparation for his crowning work quantification of the predicate was first explicitly stated. had been practically life-long. There are few parts of the This Stanley Jevens declared to be “ undoubtedly the most world upon the botany of which he had not touched. In fruitful discovery made in abstract logical science since the the sequence and arrangement of the great families of time of Aristotle.” Before sixty copies had been sold the flowering plants, different views from those of Bentham may publisher became bankrupt and the stock went for waste- be adopted. But Bentham paved the way by an intimate paper. The book passed into oblivion, and it was not till and exact statement of the structural facts and their 1873 that Bentham’s claims to priority were finally vindi- accurate relationship, which is not likely to be improved. cated against those of Sir William Hamilton by Herbert In method and style, in descriptive work, Bentham was a Spencer. In 1836 he published his Labiatarum genera et species. In preparing this work he visited, between supreme master. This, to quote Professor Oliver again, is “ manifest not only in its terseness, aptness, and pre1830-34, every European herbarium, several more than cision, but especially in the judicious selection of diagnostic once. The following winter was passed in Vienna, where and in the instinctive estimate of probable range in he produced his Commentationes de Leguminosarum qeneri- marks, variation, long experience and innate genius for such bus, published in the annals of the Vienna Museum. In work couldwhich alone inspire.” (w. t. t.-d.)