Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Watson, Peter William

WATSON, PETER WILLIAM (1761–1830), botanist, was born at Hull in 1761, being baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 26 Aug. in that year. Educated at the grammar school under Joseph Milner [q. v.], and occupied in early life in trade; he was an enthusiastic student of botany, entomology, chemistry, and mineralogy, and a skilful landscape-painter. In 1812 he took an active part in the establishment of the Hull botanic garden. In his ‘Dendrologia Britannica’ he alludes (p. xii) to his ‘own endeavours to furnish the institution with many indigenous plants, which I collected at considerable expense and labour, by traversing the whole East Riding … in my gig, with proper apparatus for cutting up roots, collecting seeds, &c. of the rarer sorts, whose habitats had been rendered familiar to me from numerous previous herborisations.’ In 1824 and the following year he issued, in twenty-four parts, his ‘Dendrologia Britannica; or Trees and Shrubs that will live in the Open Air of Britain throughout the year.’ This work, which Loudon describes (Arboretum Britannicum, p. 188) as ‘the most scientific work devoted exclusively to trees which has hitherto been published in England,’ was completed in two octavo volumes, printed in Hull and published in London in 1825. It contains an introduction to descriptive botany, occupying seventy-two pages and 172 excellent coloured plates of exotic trees and shrubs, each accompanied by a page of technical description. Watson died at Cottingham, near Hull, on 1 Sept. 1830. He was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1824.

[R. W. Corlass's Sketches of Hull Authors, 1879.]

G. S. B.