Collection TitleIsaac Henry Burkill Papers
TitleIsaac Henry Burkill Papers
DescriptionThe collection mainly comprises the preparatory notes and typescripts for Burkill's studies and publications (11 boxes), also one volume and one folder of correspondence, one folder of personnal papers, botanical journals and journals of Burkill's tours in Asia (18 volumes) and 23 boxes of index cards
Creator NameBurkill, Isaac Henry (1870-1965)
Extent12 boxes, 16 volumes, 23 index boxes
Administrative HistoryIsaac Henry Burkill was born on the 18th of May 1870 at Chapel Allerton, near Leeds. He did his school years at Repton where he started to collect plants and insects and to develop an interest for botany. He first decided to train as a doctor and following the advice of one of his Repton's masters sought admission to Caius College in Cambridge. Burkill was admitted to Cambridge in 1888, in 1891 he was awarded a scholarship and was appointed Assistant Curator of Cambridge's Herbarium. He developed his knowledge of European flora and, in 1894, was appointed a teacher. In 1894 also, Burkill joined the Linnean Society and made his first visit to RBG Kew to determine some specimens from the Western Pacific region he had found at Cambridge. On the 1st of January 1897, Burkill was appointed to RBG Kew as a Technical Assistant. Two years later he was transferred to the Director's office as a Principal Assistant. Burkill had already developped an interest for Pacific flora and tropical plants, that led to his nomination as Assistant to the Reporter of Economic Products in Calcutta. Burkill arrived in Calcutta at the beginning of 1901. There, he met Sir David Prain, Superintendant of the Calcutta Botanic Garden. He was growing many plants of the genus Dioscorea in order to study them. Burkill soon shared his interested and they started to work on them and classify them together. Burkill used his tours in India and nearby countries to collect more plants for his studies and the Botanic Garden. In 1907, Burkill's title was changed to Assistant Director to the Botanic Survey and in 1912 he was asked by the governement of Strait Settlements to accept the directorship of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. In Singapore, Burkill started his first card index listing all the economic products of the Malay peninsula. In May 1924, Burkill retired and left Singapore. He went back to RBG Kew to work as a researcher. He first published a guide to the Singapore Botanic Garden and, in 1935, a DICTIONARY OF THE ECONOMIC PRODUCTS OF THE MALAY PENINSULA. After the dictionnary was published, Burkill returned to former studies and published AN ACCOUNT OF THE GENUS DIOSCOREA IN THE EAST, in collaboration with Sir D Prain, in 1936 and 1938. A second card index was elaborated for that publication. He was also at that time Botanical Secretary to the Linnean Society from 1937 to 1944 and continued studies on Ranunculus and Tamus. In 1952 he was awarded the Linnean Gold Medal. He was in permanent contact with staff at RBG Kew where he would ask for some specimens to be grown or some reference to be given from the library. In 1947 he started to study African Dioscoreaceae which led to the publication of a new artcicle in 1960 ORGANOGRAPH AND EVOLUTION OF DIOSCOREACEAE, THE FAMILY OF THE YAMS, J Linn Soc Lond Bot 56, p. 319-412. His last publication was entitled CHAPTERS ON THE HISTORY OF BOTANY IN INDIA, published between 1953 and 1963. In his old days his eyesight became weaker and weaker but he continued working almost to the end.
He had married his cousin Ethel Maud Morrison in 1910 and, in 1914, they had a son, Humphrey Morrison Burkill, who inherited his father's interest for botany.
He died on the 8th of March 1965, aged 94 years old.
Custodial HistoryI H Burkill started to donate some of his personal papers to RBG Kew in 1935 when he deposited his Indian Diary.
In 1947, he gave a collection of botanical papers to the library.
In 1959, he sent his index of cultivated plants.
In 1961 he sent a large collection including:
- 5 drawers of literature for his proposed work on the "origin of cultivated plants"
- 2 files of references to literature on Nympheaceae
- 1 file of reference to botanists in Asia and Indian names of plants
- papers and manuscripts refering to Francis Hamilton
- Mendel's paper
- Foxworthy's mansucript of "Trees of the Tropical Asiatic Region"
- Manuscript notebook held at Cambridge
- Manuscript volume of references to botanical literature
- Miscellaneous maps
- Sample of timber of Zizyphus and 3 bundles of slips of references to Zizyphus and Lotos
- a large collection of separates and reprints
as well as two copies of ORGANOGRAPHY AND EVOLUTION OF DIOSCOREACEAE, THE FAMILY OF THE YAMS and his slip index of economic plants.
He also sent his unfinished manuscript on Lotos and a paper on "Berberis as a drug".
In 1962, RBG Kew received more letters, manuscripts, maps and publications.
In 1964, I H Burkill sent his autobiography, a list of his articles and some letters, and later in the same year, reference slips on Dioscoreaceae and 2 notebooks, on Tamus and Dioscorea in Asia
SeriesBUR/1 Correspondence and personal papers
BUR/2 Working papers
BUR/3 Notes on tours
BUR/4 Index cards
ArrangementThe collection has been arranged in four series with BUR/1 containing Burkill's correspondence and personal papers, BUR/2 consisting of Burkill's working papers, BUR/3 containing the journals of his travels in Asia and BUR/4 his index cards
Physical Descriptionindex cards, typescripts, manuscripts papers, photographs, notebooks
Related MaterialSee also in the Archives:
Registered file QG 80 and QG 80A, correspondence between I H Burkill and RBG Kew's staff
Letters from I H Burkill in registered files 2/AUSTR/2, 2/SING/1/1, 1/Pub/1/3, 1/Pub/8, 3/Italy/2A
E Milne-Redhead Misc Corres BUK-COR (ff 1103-1185), correspondence with I H Burkill
J D Hooker Correspondence ff 221-223 (JDH/2/1/1)
H N Ridley Correspondence ff 167-207 (HNR/2/1/1)
W T Thiselton-Dyer Projected biography ff 90-96
T F Chipp, Letters, f 210
Letters to N Y Sandwith, vol 1, f 252
F C Stern, Paeonia mss, f 43
R Melville, Flora, misc mss, f 9
J R Drumond, Alphabetical list of genera, ff 4-9
Miss M M Whiting, misc corr, p 21-22
Directors Correspondence, vol 125, f 318
Directors Correspondence, vol 149, ff 218, 506-554
Directors Correspondence, vol 158, ff 79, 205, 219, 229
Directors Correspondence, vol 160, ff 219-301
Directors Correspondence, vol 168, ff 10-15, 17-42
Miscellaneous reports, 5, ff 115, 176-177, 264
Miscellaneous reports, 6.21, ff 40-42, 48, 52, 57, 60, 68-73, 81-83, 85-86
Miscellaneous reports, 18.2, f 130,
Singapore, Botanical Gardens, ff 144-147, 152, 178, 287-288, 323, 532-536, 574-581, 605-607
Many specimens in the Herbarium

Show related Persons records.

DS/UK/6Burkill; Isaac Henry (1870-1965)1870-1965
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