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collector and cataloger of botanical specimens
David Douglas was born in the village of Scone, Scotland, on December 30, 1799. He attended Kinnoul School, and then spent seven years working as an apprentice gardener at the estate of the 3rd Earl of Mansfield, in Scone. He subsequently studied plant culture at the college in Perth, spent time working in Fife, and then worked at the Botanical Gardens of Glasgow while attending botany lectures at the University of Glasgow. Sir William Hooker, Professor of Botany at Glasgow, was greatly impressed with him and took him on an expedition to the Highlands before recommending him to the Royal Horticultural Society of London.
In 1823, the Society sent Douglas on a plant-hunting expedition through Upper Canada. The many specimens Douglas took back to England made this trip a publicly acclaimed success.
In July 1824, the Society sent Douglas to the Pacific coast of North America, where he spent the next three years gathering botanical and zoological specimens. The number of species he took back to England far surpassed that returned by any other previous expedition. Douglas became a celebrity within the scientific community, and was admitted with honors to the Linnean, Zoological, and Geological societies of London.
Another expedition to the American Pacific coast was organized for Douglas by the Horticultural Society in 1829. From 1830 to 1833 he gathered specimens from Puget Sound to central California and in the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands.
On July 12, 1834, Douglas disappeared while hiking a mountain trail in northern Hawaii. His gored and trampled body was later found at the bottom of a cattle trap occupied by an enraged bull. Whether his death was the result of accident, murder, or suicide has never been conclusively determined.
Considered the best cataloger of botanical specimens ever, Douglas personally introduced about 240 species of plants to the British Isles, including but certainly not limited to the Douglas fir (which was actually first described by fellow Scotsman Archibald Menzies), Sitka spruce, sugar pine, western white pine, ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, monterey pine, and the California poppy.
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This page was last updated on 12/30/2017.