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BIRCH

considerable trouble, the marauders were driven back into their mountains, and since that time (except during the Santal rising of 1855) the district has been one of the most peaceful and prosperous in India.

See Imperial Gazetteer of India (Oxford, 1908), vol. viii. s.v.

BIRCH, SAMUEL (1813–1885), English Egyptologist and antiquary, was born on the 3rd of November 1813, being the son of the rector of St Mary Woolnoth, London. From an early age he manifested a tendency to the study of out-of-the-way subjects, and after a brief employment in the Record Office obtained in 1836 an appointment in the antiquities department of the British Museum on account of his knowledge of Chinese. He soon extended his researches to Egyptian, and when the cumbrous department came to be divided he was appointed to the charge of the Egyptian and Assyrian branch. In the latter language he had assistance, but for many years there was only one other person in the institution—in a different department—who knew anything of ancient Egyptian, and the entire arrangement of the department devolved upon Birch. He found time nevertheless for Egyptological work of the highest value, including a hieroglyphical grammar and dictionary, translations of The Book of the Dead and the Harris papyrus, and numerous catalogues and guides. He further wrote what was long a standard history of pottery, investigated the Cypriote syllabary, and proved by various publications that he had not lost his old interest in Chinese. Paradoxical in many of his views on things in general, he was sound and cautious as a philologist; while learned and laborious, he possessed much of the instinctive divination of genius. He died on the 27th of December 1885.

BIRCH, THOMAS (1705-1766), English historian, son of Joseph Birch, a coffee-mill maker, was born at Clerkenwell on the 23rd of November 1705. He preferred study to business, but as his parents were Quakers he did not go to the university. Notwithstanding this circumstance, he was ordained deacon in the Church of England in 1730 and priest in 1731. As a strong supporter of the Whigs, he gained the favour of Philip Yorke, afterwards lord chancellor and first earl of Hardwicke, and his subsequent preferments were largely due to this friendship. He held successively a number of benefices in different counties, and finally in London. In 1735 he became a member of the Society of Antiquaries, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, of which he was secretary from 1752 to 1765. In 1728 he had married Hannah Cox, who died in the following year. Birch was killed on the 9th of January 1766 by a fall from his horse, and was buried in the church of St Margaret Pattens, London, of which he was then rector. He left his books and manuscripts to the British Museum, and a sum of about £500 to increase the salaries of the three assistant librarians.

Birch had an enormous capacity for work and was engaged in a large number of literary undertakings. In spite of their dulness many of his works are of considerable value, although Horace Walpole questioned his “parts, taste and judgment.” He carried on an extensive correspondence with some of the leading men of his time, and many of his letters appear in Literary Anecdotes of the 18th Century (London, 1812-1815) and Illustrations of the Literary History of the 18th Century (London, 1817-1858) by J. Nichols, in the Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica, vol. iii. (London, 1780-1790), and in Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Birch wrote most of the English lives in the General Dictionary, Historical and Critical, 10 vols. (London, 1734-1741), assisted in the composition of the Athenian Letters (London, 1810), edited the State Papers of John Thurloe (London, 1742) and the State Papers of W. Murdin (London, 1759). He also wrote a Life of the Right Honourable Robert Boyle (London, 1744); Inquiry into the share which King Charles I. had in the transactions of the Earl of Glamorgan for bringing over a body of Irish rebels (London, 1756); Historical view of Negotiations between the Courts of England, France and Brussels 1592-1617 (London, 1749); Life of Archbishop Tillotson (London, 1753); Memoirs of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth from 1581 (London, 1754); History of the Royal Society of London (London, 1756-1757); Life of Henry, Prince of Wales (London, 1760), and many other works. Among the papers left at his death were some which were published in 1848 as the Court and Times of James I. and the Court and Times of Charles I.

See W. P. Courtney in the Dictionary of National Biography, vol. v. (1886); A. Kippis, Biographia Britannica (London, 1778-1793); Horace Walpole, Letters (London, 1891).

BIRCH (Betula), a genus of plants allied to the alder (Alnus), and like it a member of the natural order Betulaceae. The various species of birch are mostly trees of medium size, but several of them are merely shrubs. They are as a rule of a very hardy character, thriving best in northern latitudes—the trees having round, slender branches, and serrate, deciduous leaves, with barren and fertile catkins on the same tree, and winged fruits, the so-called seeds. The bark in most of the trees occurs in fine soft membranous layers, the outer cuticle of which peels off in thin, white, papery sheets.

1911 Britannica-Birch-Betula alba.png
From Strasburger, Lerbuch der Botanik.
Betula alba. 1, Branch with male (a) and female (b)
inflorescences; 2, bract with three male flowers; 3, bract
with three female flowers; 4, infrutescence; 5, fruit.
(After Wossidlo.)

The common white or silver birch (B. alba) (see fig.) grows throughout the greater part of Europe, and also in Asia Minor, Siberia and North America, reaching in the north to the extreme limits of forest vegetation, and stretching southward on the European continent as a forest tree to 45° N. lat., beyond which birches occur only in special situations or as isolated trees. It is well known in England for its graceful habit, the slender, grey—or white—barked stem, the delicate, drooping branches and the quivering leaves, a bright, clear green in spring, becoming duller in the summer, but often keeping their greenness rather late into the autumn. The male and female flowers are borne on separate catkins in April and May. It is a shortlived tree, generally from 40 to 50 ft. high with a trunk seldom more than 1 ft. in diameter. It flourishes in light soils and is one of the few trees that will grow amongst heather; owing to the large number of “winged seeds” which are readily scattered by the wind, it spreads rapidly, springing up where the soil is dry and covering clearings or waste places.

The birch is one of the most wide-spread and generally useful of forest trees of Russia, occurring in that empire in vast forests, in many instances alone, and in other cases mingled with pines, poplars and other forest trees. The wood is highly valued by carriage-builders, upholsterers and turners, on account of its toughness and tenacity, and in Russia it is prized as firewood and a source of charcoal. A very extensive domestic industry in Russia consists in the manufacture of wooden spoons, which are made to the extent of 30,000,000 annually, mostly of birch. Its pliant and flexible branches are made into brooms; and in ancient Rome the fasces of the lictors, with which they cleared the way for the magistrates, were made up of birch rods. A similar use of birch rods has continued among pedagogues to times so recent that the birch is yet, literally or metaphorically, the instrument of school-room discipline. The bark of the common birch is much more durable, and industrially of greater