Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/117

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tablishment—what they called a "Physic Garden" in those days—by the widow of Frederick, the dowager Princess Augusta, under the advice of the Earl of Bute. She employed William Aiton to direct the scientific work, and Sir William Chambers to superintend the decorative gardening. "Science will ever be grateful to the one," says a writer in The Saturday Review,[1] "and Taste will never forgive the other while his constructions remain." In 1768 Sir John Hill published a catalogue of the plants at Kew. There were fifty ferns, about six hundred trees and shrubs, and several thousands of herbaceous plants. The list was not greatly lengthened twenty-one years after, when Aiton issued the Hortus Kewensis with the aid of Dr. Solander. But the collections made by Sir Joseph Banks in Captain Cook's famous voyage were deposited here; then those of Robert Brown and Allan Cunningham, who had accompanied Captains Flinders and King respectively to Australia; then the plants of Brazil and the Cape of Good Hope, gathered by Messrs. Bowie and Masson; those of Caley, and Ker, and Menzies, and a host of smaller collections. In 1810 William Aiton the younger published a new edition of his father's work, which contained nearly ten thousand descriptions. About 1789 the estate was bought by George III, who devoted much of his leisure to its improvement. But evil days followed the death of Sir Joseph Banks, in whom Kew had a friend at court. For all Aiton could do, the gardens sank into neglect, and in 1838 it was proposed to disestablish and disendow them. A protest was raised, and, after further consideration, the gardens were surrendered by the crown and became a national establishment in 1810. Sir W. J. Hooker was appointed director in the following year. Kew has been fortunate in having had few changes in directors. It was in charge of William Aiton from 1759 to 1793; of William Aiton, Jr., from 1793 to 1840; Sir W. J. Hooker was director from 1841 to 1866; his son, Sir Joseph D. Hooker, from 1866 to 1886; and to him has succeeded Mr. W. T. Thiselton Dyer.

Under the directorship of Sir W. J. Hooker the Royal Botanic Gardens rapidly advanced in importance. During his term of ofiice a report of the Progress and Condition of the gardens was made annually. This was superseded in 1883 by a monthly Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information. The early reports of Sir William Hooker are interesting, besides their historic and scientific value, for the evidence they give of his sturdy, ceaseless battles with the Treasury. The director is pathetic, indignant, and argumentative by turns, and one way or another he contrived to

  1. The writer is indebted to an appreciative article in The Saturday Review (London), of October 5, 12, and 19, 1889, for the material of this sketch.