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Ref No HEM
Title William Botting Hemsley Papers
Description This collection comprises four series. The first is a collection of correspondence, dating from 27 Jan 1840-29 Jan 1917, addressed to Hemsley, primarily from other botanists and botanical in subject. Notable correspondents include Joseph Dalton Hooker, Marianne North and William Thistleton-Dyer (HEM/1). The second series consists of 3 bound manuscript volumes and 1 box concerning Hemsley's work on the project Biologi Centrali-Americana which was completed between 1879 and 1888 (HEM/2). The third series consists of a small bound volume of lists of plants in stove 15 at RBG Kew in 1862 (HEM/3). The fourth and final series contains some miscellaneous correspondence to Hemsley and notes made on the genera Cryptocentrum and Orchidaceae (HEM/4).
Creator Name William Botting Hemsley (29 Dec1843-7 Oct 1924)
Date 27 Jan 1840-15 May 1918
Level Collection
Extent 7 volumes, 1 box and 1 file
Administrative History William Botting Hemsley was born on 29th Dec 1843 in East Hoathly, Sussex. He was educated at home and entered into service at Kew when he was 17, as an improver, after being recommended to William Jackson Hooker by William Borrer. After six months, Hemsley was transferred to the Herbarium, then back to the Gardens in the autumn of 1862. It was in 1862 that Hemsley compiled a list of plants in stove 15 at Kew, which contained 352 species, belonging to 215 genera (HEM/3/1). During this period, Hemsley also became attracted to the study of modern languages and subsequently learnt to speak and write French and German. Hemsley only spent a year back in the Gardens, before he was transferred to the Herbarium, once again, this time as a proof-reader to George Bentham. In 1863, Hemsley won first prize in an open botany examination and in 1866 he made his first contribution to botanical literature in Lindley and Moore's TREASURY OF BOTANY (1866).

In 1867, owing to the effects of ill health, Hemsley was forced to resign his post at Kew, which he did not resume for seven years. During this interim period, Hemsley focused his energies on studying the flora of Sussex, in the hopes of publishing his findings. Unfortunately, this project never progressed further than an outline produced in 1875, although the correspondence for this project still survives in Hemsley's personal collection (HEM/1/3). Hemsley also undertook research during this period for his first publication, HANDBOOK OF HARDY TREES, SHRUBS AND HERBACEOUS PLANTS (1873).

In 1874 Hemsley was appointed as a Principal Assistant in the Herbarium and it was between 1874 and 1890 that Hemsley became known as a systematic botanist. Other notable works overseen and completed by Hemsley, include the BIOLOGI CENTRALI-AMERICANA, by Godman and Salvin which was completed between 1879 and 1888 and of which Hemsley was in charge of the botanical section. His work on this project earned his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1889. In 1882, Hemsley also completed a descriptive catalogue for the Marianne North Gallery. It was in 1899 that Hemsley became Keeper of the Herbarium and Library at Kew, a post he retained until his retirement in 1908, when he was succeeded by Dr. Otto Stapf.

Aside from Hemsley's official engagement and work at Kew, he also undertook many other appointments which included being appointed Lindley Librarian in 1875; elected as an Associate of the Linnean Society in 1875; becoming a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1896; becoming the Assistant for India in 1883, being awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour in 1909 and receiving an Honorary Degree of LL.D. of Aberdeen University in 1913. Hemsley also co-edited the 'Botanical Magazine' with Joseph D. Hooker during 1903-04.

William Botting Hemsley died on 7 Oct 1924 at Broadstairs, Kent.
Custodial History Unknown, presumably passed onto Kew when Hemsley died in 1924
Series The collection consists of four series:
HEM/1- Correspondence
HEM/2- Biologia Centrali-Americana
HEM/3- List of plants in stove 15 at RBG Kew, 1862
HEM/4- Notes and drawings
Arrangement The collection has been left in the order it was found in, but has been separated into 4 different series which denote different subjects. The original order of the collection cannot be ascertained as it is unknown when Kew acquired the collection and what its original order was.
Language English, French, German
Physical Description Manuscript and typescript papers and illustrations
Related Material RBG Kew's Main Library holds many publications by Hemsley and also biographical material. The library holds Hemsley's descriptive catalogue of the North Gallery published in 1882 (qK148)
Show related Persons records.
Persons
Code PersonName Dates
DS/UK/91 Hemsley; William Botting (1843-1924); Botanist 1843-1924
Places
Code Set
NA29 Herbarium/Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Herbarium/Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Buildings/Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. United Kingdom
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