- Brown , Robert
- (1773–1858) British botanistBrown, a clergyman's son from Montrose, Scotland, studied medicine at Edinburgh University. He joined the Fifeshire Regiment of Fencibles in 1795 and served five years in Ireland as a medical officer. During a visit to London in 1798 he was introduced to Sir Joseph Banks. This led, two years later, to his being recommended by Banks for the post of naturalist on theInvestigator in an expedition to survey the coast of New Holland (Australia) under the command of Matthew Flinders. Brown accepted the appointment and the Investigator set sail for the Cape of Good Hope and Australia in 1801. During his five years with the expedition Brown collected 4000 plant specimens, and on his return to England spent another five years classifying these. Rather than use Linnaeus's artificial classification, he followed Antoine de Jussieu's more natural system, adding his own modifications and using microscopic characters to help delimit species. By 1810 he had described 2200 species, over 1700 of which were new (including 140 new genera). He intended to produce an extensive treatise on Australian plants but the poor sales of the first volume, which appeared in 1810, led him to discontinue publication of the remainder.In the course of his painstaking work Brown became very familiar with plant morphology, which led him to make many important observations. He found that in conifers and related plants the ovary around the ovule is missing, thus establishing the basic difference between these plants and flowering plants or between the gymnosperms and the angiosperms, as the two groups of seed-bearing plants were later named. He also observed and named the nucleus, recognizing it as an essential part of living cells.In 1827, while examining a suspension of pollen grains in water, under a microscope, Brown observed that the grains were in continuous erratic motion. Initially he believed that this movement was caused by some life force in the pollen, but when he extended his observations to inanimate particles suspended in water he found the same effect. This phenomenon was named Brownian motion and remained unexplained until the kinetic theory was developed.From 1806 to 1822 Brown was librarian of the Linnean Society; in 1810 he also became librarian and curator at Banks's Soho Square residence. Banks stipulated in his will that on his death Brown should take charge of his house, library, and herbarium. In 1820 Brown duly inherited this responsibility and in 1827 he donated Banks's library and herbarium to the British Museum on the understanding that the trustees established an independent botany department in the museum. Thus a botanical collection became accessible to the general public for the first time in Britain.
Scientists. Academic. 2011.