TitleSir Joseph Hooker Papers
DescriptionThe first series (JDH/1) is comprised of papers and correspondence relating to expeditions that J.D. Hooker was involved in, either as a direct participant or in an advisory capacity (c.1839-1911). The second (JDH/2) is a series of volumes of correspondence between J.D. Hooker and many other individuals on a variety of topics including members of his family(c.1830s-1911). The third series (JDH/3) contains papers relating to the published works of J.D. Hooker and other manuscript Flora (c.1839-1906). The fourth series (JDH/4) is comprised of papers and correspondence relating to a wide variety of societies and subjects in which J.D. Hooker had an interest (c.1820s-1910s).
Creator NameHooker, Joseph Dalton, Sir (1817-1911)
Extent111 volumes, 35 folders, 5 folders containing 38 volumes
Administrative HistoryJoseph Dalton Hooker was born at Halesworth, Suffolk, on 30 June 1817, the second son of Sir William Jackson Hooker and his wife Maria, daughter of naturalist Dawson Turner. He was educated at Glasgow High School and later at Glasgow University, where his father was Regius Professor of Botany. He graduated M.D. in 1839. Hooker attended his father's university botany lectures from the age of seven and formed an interest in plant distribution as well as an early enthusiasm for travellers' tales such as Captain Cook's Voyages.
Hooker's passions for botany and travel were combined when he was appointed assistant surgeon aboard HMS Erebus, which - commanded by Sir James Clark Ross, and accompanied by its sister ship, the Terror - was to spend four years, from 1839 to 1843, exploring the southern oceans. Although Ross was a friend of William Hooker, and encouraged Joseph's botanical work during the voyage, William's income would not allow Joseph to travel as a self-financed, gentlemanly companion to the captain - as Charles Darwin had done. Instead, Joseph sailed as assistant surgeon, subject to naval discipline and with many shipboard duties to perform. This Antarctic expedition took Hooker through Cape of Good Hope, Kerguelen Island, Tasmania, Auckland Islands, Campbell Island, Victoria Barrier, Sydney, New Zealand, Cape Horn, Falkland Islands, Hermite Island off Tierra del Fuego and it even gave Hooker the opportunity to experience his childhood dream of seeing Kerguelen Land. The sojourns ashore allowed him to collect plants in relatively unexplored regions.
When the Erebus returned to England in 1843, Hooker needed to establish his reputation and find paid, botanical employment. Two years earlier, his father had been appointed first director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, which had just been brought under government control. However, while the prestigious appointment brought William Hooker to the centres of scientific life in London, it reduced his income and he was still unable to give his son much financial support. Fortunately William's influence was sufficient to secure an Admiralty grant of £1000 to cover the cost of the Botany of the Antarctic Voyage's plates, and Joseph received his Assistant Surgeon's pay while he worked on it. The book eventually formed six large volumes: two each for the Flora Antarctica, 1844-47; the Flora Novae-Zelandiae, 1851-53; and the Flora Tasmaniae, 1853-59.
It was also in 1843 that Hooker's correspondence with Charles Darwin began. Whilst still a student, Hooker had read proofs of Darwin's voyage of the Beagle and this had fired Hooker's enthusiasm. They had first met just before Hooker left on the Antarctic voyage and now began a lifelong friendship during which time Hooker remained a staunch supporter of Darwin and his theories.
In 1845, he was a candidate for the chair of botany at the University of Edinburgh but after failing to win the professorship, he secured work at the Geological Survey. This lasted from 1847-48 when he left to start his Himalayan expedition.
The imperial context and importance of Hooker's work is evident in his trip to the central and eastern Himalaya (1847-49). Hooker obtained a government grant for the trip and the Admiralty gave him free passage on the ships taking Lord Dalhousie, the newly-appointed Governor General, to India. After visiting Calcutta, Hooker went to Darjeeling and then to Sikkim where he and his travelling companion were arrested for border violation. Following his release, Hooker spent 1850 travelling with Thomas Thomson in Eastern Bengal and the two returned to England in 1851. Together they wrote the first volume of a projected Flora Indica (1855) but this was never completed (although Hooker eventually produced the Flora of British India, 1872-1897). The introductory essay on the geographical relations of India's flora, however, was to be one of Hooker's most important statements on bio-geographical issues. Altogether Hooker collected about 7,000 species in India and Nepal and on his return to England, managed to secure another government grant while he classified and named them. His Himalayan Journals were published in 1854.
In August 1851, Hooker married Frances Harriet, eldest daughter of John Stevens Henslow, the Cambridge professor of Botany who had taught Darwin. Joseph and Frances had four sons and two surviving daughters, but Hooker's favourite daughter, Minnie (Maria Elizabeth), died in September 1863, when she was just six years old. Frances died in 1874 and two years later Joseph married Hyacinth, the only daughter of William Samuel Symonds, with whom he had two more sons.
Since William Hooker had been put in charge, Kew Gardens had increased from eleven acres to over 300 acres, containing more than 20 glasshouses and over 4,500 living herbaceous plants. Faced with this enormous expansion, the government finally agreed that the director could not cope alone and their decision brought a conclusion to Joseph's long search for secure, paid employment; he was appointed Assistant Director on 5 June 1855.
In 1865 William Hooker died and Joseph succeeded him as director of Kew, a position he held until his retirement in 1885. The public function of Kew became a source of controversy in various ways during Joseph Hooker's tenure as Director. He asserted that the garden's 'primary objects are scientific and utilitarian, not recreational' and complained about the need to create elaborate floral displays for those he regarded as 'mere pleasure or recreation seekers … whose motives are rude romping and games' (Desmond 1995: 230, 234). Given these views, it is hardly surprising that he continued the tradition of allowing only serious botanical students and artists to enter the gardens during the morning, and resisted all attempts to extend the garden's opening hours for the general public.
In 1865, Hooker also began work with George Bentham on the substantial Genera Plantarum, the three massive volumes of which provide a summary of all of the genera of flowering plants and gymnosperms known at the time. This work was completed in 1883.
Hooker was the president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1868 and, in 1873, he was elected president of the Royal Society where he instituted various reforms designed to broaden public participation in the society, including the ladies soirées. When he retired from the presidency in 1878, Hooker was particularly proud of the £10,000 he had helped raise which allowed the restrictively-high membership dues to be reduced.
According to his son in law, William Thiselton-Dyer, who was to take over as Director in 1885, Hooker was 'five feet eleven inches in height and spare and wiry in figure' and 'in temperament he was nervous and high-strung'. Thiselton-Dyer also attested to Hooker's capacity for hard work, a claim borne out by the full list of his publications, which fills twenty pages. As well as writing, he continued to travel and visited Syria and Palestine (1860), Morocco (1871) and the U.S.A. (1877).
Hooker was highly-regarded in his lifetime and received numerous honorary degrees including ones from Oxford and Cambridge. He was created C.B. in 1869; K.C.S.I. in 1877; G.C.S.I. in 1897; and received the Order of Merit in 1907. The Royal Society gave him their royal medal in 1854, the Copley in 1887, and the Darwin in 1892. He also received numerous prizes and awards from both British and foreign scientific societies.
In 1893, Hooker commenced his fourth major work - the Index Kewensis which was initially funded by Darwin. It provides an index of the names of seed plants to various levels and continues to be updated to the present day.
Hooker died in his sleep at midnight at home on 10 December 1911 after a short and apparently minor illness. He was buried, as he wished to be, alongside his father in the churchyard of St Anne's on Kew Green. His widow, Hyacinth, was offered the option of burial alongside Darwin in Westminster Abbey, but perhaps she understood that - despite the importance of his relationship with Darwin - it was botany, Kew Gardens and his father who should determine his final resting place.
Custodial HistoryWhilst the provenance of this collection is uncertain, evidence suggests that the bulk of J.D. Hooker's papers were probably deposited in the Kew archives by his widow, Lady Hyacinth Hooker, and other members of the family subsequent to the research for and publication of Leonard Huxley's book Life and Letters of Sir J.D. Hooker (1918). Letters in the file JDH/2/9 from Lady Hooker and W.H. Hooker (J.D. Hooker's son) mention some specific documents and remark that the Kew archive is the most appropriate place for deposit. Some other volumes may have been created in situ at Kew in relation to J.D. Hooker's position as Director but this is likely to have been primarily the related Directors' Correspondence series.

A number of volumes, however, were presented directly to the archive:

JDH/1/17 : Journey to America; JDH/4/5 : Testimonials; JDH/4/4 : Botanical Sketchbook - these volumes were presented by J.D. Hooker in 1908.
JDH/2/8 : Letters during a Tour in Paris - this volume was presented by Prof. Julian Huxley through Mr. J.S.L. Gilmour in May 1943.
JDH/2/9 : Misc Letters - Copies of letters from Andrew Sinclair to J.D. Hooker and from J.D. Hooker to Sir George Grey which were deposited by Mr. Garry Tee of The University of Auckland in November 1991; copies of 2 original letters from J.D. Hooker to Sir John Kirk which were offered for sale (not bought) by John Wilson, Witney in 1979; a copy of an original letter from J.D. Hooker to "Grote" which was offered for sale (not bought) by Maggs Bros. in 1993; a photocopy and transcript of a letter from J.D. Hooker to "Frere" (?) and the reply from Col. Younghusband which was deposited by Ms. Joan DeFato of the Dept. of Arboreta and Botanic Gardens, Los Angeles in June 1982; an original letter from J.D. Hooker to an anonymous addressee which was deposited by E. Clifton, High Wycombe in Aug 2003; a photocopy of a letter which was sold at Sotheby's on 23 July 1974 to the American Philosophical Society (possibly deposited by a Mrs. Mortimer?).
JDH/2/12 : Letters to W.E. Darwin - these letters were presented by G. Darwin in Oct 1976.
JDH/2/15 : Letters to George Engelmann. Accession no. QX-97-018. Found in archives room at Kew.
JDH/2/16 : Letters to Thiselton-Dyer - this volume was presented by William Thiselton-Dyer in 1921.
JDH/4/1 : Lecture Notebook c.1827. Accession no. PrP-02-0007. Found in library at Kew.
JDH/2/21: 'Benthamania' 1849-1897 was presented to Kew by Joseph Hooker in 1907.
SeriesThe collection consists of four series - JDH/1 - Expeditions, JDH/2- Correspondence, JDH/3- Publications and botanical manuscripts, JDH/4 - Miscellaneous papers
Related MaterialFurther material relating to Sir Joseph Hooker can be found in the Directors Correspondence and miscellaneous report collections, as well as in the following collections-

Letters to J.G. Baker - original letters c.1860s-1870s
Letters to M.C. Cooke - original letter 27 Aug 1881
Letters to W.B. Hemsley - original letters 18 Jul 1908 - 7 Jul 1910
Letters to D. Prain - original letters 17 Aug 1892 - 8 Dec 1902
Letters to H.N. Ridley Vol.3 - original letters 9 Jun 1886 - 21 Jun 1911
Letters to I.H. Burkill - original letters 8 Dec 1906 - 27 Feb 1908
Letters to Sargent - photocopies 2 Dec 1872 - 29 Apr 1910
Letters to Gunter - photocopies 8 May 1865 - 17 Jul 1909
Letter to W. Mitten - original letters c.1854-1885
Letters to Lindley Vol.1 - original letters c.1870s
Letters to H.N. Ellacombe - original letters c.1893-1894
Munro Correspondence - original letters from J.D. Hooker c.1852-1875
Sir William Jackson Hooker : Letters to J.D. Hooker - see W.J. Hooker's catalogue WJH/2/12
Sir William Jackson Hooker : Letters from friends in India to W.J. Hooker primarily concerning about J.D. Hooker
Letters from T.H. Huxley - complete volume of typescript copies of letters from Huxley to J.D. Hooker 6 Nov 1854 - 26 Jun 1895
Letters from C.R. Darwin - 3 volumes of manuscript copies of letters to J.D. Hooker 1843-1867
Thomas Thomson - complete volume of original letters to J.D. Hooker 18 Dec 1843 - 8 June 1862
George Bentham - complete volume of original letters to J.D. Hooker 1842-1884
J. Ball - file containing original indexed letters to J.D. Hooker 1859-1898
Misc. letters referring to W. Wilson's letters in the British Museum - This volume contains both original letters to J.D. Hooker and manuscript and typescript copies of letters to and from him relating to the deposit of W. Wilson's letters in the British Museum who had possession of his herbarium collection. c.1890s
Letter to Dawson Turner - this original letter is bound in the library volume Fuci, sive plantarum Fucorum generi by Dawson Turner Vol 1, 1808. (library reference - q265 ALGAE)
Welwitsch Collections Chancery Suit : Correspondence - This bound volume contains correspondence, including some relating to J.D. Hooker, concerning to the fate of the specimen collections of Dr. Friedrich Welwitsch who was sent on an expedition to Africa by the Portugese Government between 1853 and 1861. This correspondence is dated c.1872.
Kew Gardens Appointment of Assistant Directors 1874-1898 - The correspondence relating to J.D Hooker in this volume is c.1870s-1880s.
Kew Private Keys - This volume contains letters to J.D. Hooker regarding the provision of keys to individuals. C.1870s-1900s
Herbarium Presentations (2 vols) - This volume contains correspondence, including letters to J.D. Hooker, regarding donations to Kew Herbarium. C.1850s-1900s
Hooker/Ayrton Contoversy - This bound volume contains typed transcriptions of correspondence regarding the controversy surrounding the future of the Herbaria at Kew and the Natural History Museum. c.1871-1872
Jodrell Laboratory - see the Kewensia Pamphlet Box (145) for photocopies of correspondence between J.D. Hooker, Thomas Phillips Jodrell and other individuals regarding the foundation of the Jodrell Laboratory.
East Africa. Kilimanjaro Expedition - This volume contains papers and correspondence relating to a committee, of which J.D. Hooker was a member, which was established in order to organise an expedition to Kilimanjaro and the surrounding area. c.1881-1889
Letters concerning the sale of Sir. J.D. Hooker's set of the Botanical Magazine 1922.
Genus cover notes & annotations : Impatiens - This file of cards contains notes by J.D. Hooker
G.F. Newman - this file contains primarily letters to J.D. Hooker relating to research that G.F. Newman was conducting into the Hooker family to which he was related by marriage.
Mea Allen : Research notes - Mea Allen produced a biography of the Hooker family entitled The Hookers of Kew (1967). These two files contain Allen's research notes and may provide further relevant information on J.D. Hooker.
RBG Kew's illustration department also holds 304 original drawings created by Hooker, these include sketches made in the field of Rhododendrons, executed while travelling through the Sikkim region of the Himalayas. These watercolours were sent along with collected specimens back to Walter Hood Fitch (1817-1892), who worked from Hooker's drawings to produce the lithographic illustrations for the popular publication Rhododendrons of Sikkim Himalaya (1849-51).

The archives also has microfilm copies of Hooker's letters to Asa Gray (1884-1888), the original of which are held at Harvard University (Joseph Dalton Hooker Letters, Historic Letters File, Archives, Library of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A. - copyright holders); and microfilm copies of Hooker's letters to Charles Darwin. The origin of the Darwin film is unknown.
Further biographical material can be found in RBG Kew's biographical pamphlet collections and in the kewensia collection.
The Herbarium at RBG Kew also holds specimens within its collections that were collected by Hooker, which can be accessed via the internet at
CopiesSurrogate copies exist of the following material-
JDH/1/1 : Antarctic Journal 18 May 1839 - 28 Mar 1843 : typed transcript of Hooker's journal (microfilm copy only to be produced).
JDH/4/5 : Testimonials 1845 - typed transcript of J.D. Hooker's testimonial letters relating to Edinburgh University with translations of relevant letters
JDH/2/12 : Letters to W.E. Darwin c.1871-1909 - the majority of these letters are also in typescript copy in JDH/2/3/3 Letters from J.D. Hooker.
Microfilm copies of the following volumes are available-
JDH/1/1 : Antarctic Journal 18 May 1839 - 28 Mar 1843
JDH/1/1 : Antarctic Journal 18 May 1839 - 28 Mar 1843
JDH/1/2 : Correspondence from Antarctic Expedition 1839-1843
JDH/1/3 : Letters & Journal 1839-1843
JDH/1/4 : Antarctic Manuscript c.1839-1843
JDH/1/5 : Antarctic Botany - Notes and Drawings c.1839-1840s
JDH/1/6 : H.M.S. Erebus - St. Auckland's and Campbell's Islands - Botanic Manuscript c.1840
JDH/1/11 : Indian Journal c.1848 - 1852
JDH/2/8 : Letters during a Tour in Paris c.1844-1845
JDH/2/10 : Correspondence Received c.1839-1845
JDH/2/17 : Letters to Thiselton-Dyer c.1870-1909
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