TitleHenry Ridley Papers
DescriptionThe collection contains correspondence sent both to and from Ridley (1877-1956) in which each volume contains an alphabetical index; whilst photographs, maps and illustrations show
Creator NameRidley, Henry Nicholas (1855-1956)
Datec. 19th century-1956
Extent1 box, 3 photographic albums, 49 volumes and 52 folders
Administrative HistoryHenry Nicholas Ridley was born in 1855. His first major interest was in genealogy and he was fascinated by his family's past. However, whilst at school at Haileybury in Hertfordshire his interests started to broaden and he became fascinated by nature, specifically birds and insects, he wrote his first published paper on the topic whilst at school. On leaving Haileybury Ridley read Natural Sciences at Exeter College, Oxford where he obtained a second class honours degree. Having completed Oxford, Ridley wished to become a tropical zoologist and he tried but failed to obtain a post (most notably at the British Museum). He then applied for a botany position at the British Museum and was successful, despite botany being a minor interest to him. At the Museum Ridley worked under Carruthers on Monocotyledons. Under his tutelage from 1883 onwards Ridley published widely on Monocotyledons, Orchidaceae and British plants and insects. His first (documented) foreign trip was to the Island of Fernando de Noronha, about which he published papers on; its geology; its botany; and its status as a convict island.

In 1888, having gained a wide knowledge of botany, Ridley was appointed as Director of Gardens and Forests for the Straits Settlements. His post was based in Singapore but incorporated all of Malaya. From this point onwards Ridley's life was a hive of activity for example, in 1906 he published thirty-eight papers. He published constantly on the Straits region; he was a good Director who completed all his tasks with zeal; travelled as much as possible sending back specimens to build an impressive Herbarium in Singapore and contributing to the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew; and he brought back live samples to Singapore to be studied and cultivated. He became especially interested in economic botany, collecting data and writing about indigenous plants with a commercial value such as rattan. Yet, Ridley also still maintained his interested in zoological science; he had a large insect collection; he studied relations between plants and animals; and he actively cared for animals living in the Botanical Gardens, Singapore. Despite these numerous achievements Ridley is best remembered for his involvement in the development of Malaysian rubber or Hevea brasiliensis.

Sir Joseph Hooker (Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 1865-1885) had encouraged the exchange of plants between colonies and he suggested to Ridley in 1888 that he stop at Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to study rubber plants. Ridley was so enthused by what he found that on arrival in Singapore he established a plantation of rubber trees and started experiments. He concentrated on making sure that the latex yield outweighed the cost of planting and maintaining the trees. Others were slow to realise the potential benefits but despite this Ridley continued to develop his plantation and so by the time others started plantations he was an expert. The first economic plantation was in Malacca in 1896 using seeds provided by Ridley. Others soon followed and the resultant boom was largely due to Ridley's seeds and advice. When he retired in 1912 the planters of Malaysia awarded him $800 in acknowledgement but despite spawning the industry Ridley received nothing else.

Another great interest of Ridley's was psychic phenomena; he founded the Singapore Philosophical Society and edited its journal. He also founded the Society for Psychical Research. He was known to be a kind man, who offered assistance to his employees' families.

Ridley achieved much but it is for rubber and as 'the man who made others rich' that he is mainly remembered in his obituaries. Professional bodies recognised his contribution to botany; he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1907 and granted a C.M.G. by the Government of the Straits Settlements in 1911. In addition, the Botanical Magazine was dedicated to Ridley in 1906 in acknowledgement of the many live plants he sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Ridley died at age 101 in 1956, at his home in Kew village, London having lost his sight from an earlier illness and having been confined to the house for four years.
Custodial HistoryThe collection was bequeathed to RBG Kew by Mrs H N Ridley in 1958
SeriesThe collection consists of 6 series - HNR/1: Photographs, illustrations and maps, HNR/2: Correspondence, HNR/3: Notebooks, HNR/4: Botanical and Zoological papers, HNR/5: Expeditions, HNR/6: Non-botanical and Zoological papers
ArrangementThe collection has been arranged into series with correspondence, notebooks, botanical and zoological papers and expedition papers arranged according to their subject; whilst the other items of the collection, photographs, illustrations and maps have been arranged together
Physical DescriptionThe collection contains manuscript papers
Related MaterialFurther material relating to Ridley can be found in the following-
J.D Hooker, Floras of Burma, Ceylon, India and Malaya ff. 57. (JDH/3/7) MF
J.D Hooker, Impatiens c.1900-1910 ff. 4 (JDH/4/16)
L. Reeve & Co. Authors etc., Dispersal of Plants (in alphabetical order)
W. Munro, Monograph of Bambusaceae Southern Nigeria 1891-1905 ff. 343/441
T.F Chipp, Miscellaneous Data 1922-1948 ff. 171
Kew Gardens Appointments of Assistant Directors ff. 46/48/64
Miscellaneous Reports New Ginea, Fiji and Pacific Islands 1850-1928 ff. 12-13/15
Miscellaneous Reports Great Britain-Forest Education and Miscellaneous ff. 101-102
Miscellaneous Reports Southern Nigeria 1891-1905 ff. 342/441
Miscellaneous Reports Singapore Botanic Gardens etc. 1874-1917 ff. 51/74-78/81-87/91-94/102/104/109/111-113/268-271/175-178/280/284-285/486/488/501-503/515/527-531/550/561
Miscellaneous Reports Borneo-Cultural Products 1844-1913 ff. 142
Miscellaneous Reports Malaya-Rubber 1852-1908 ff. 91 ff. 91
Miscellaneous Reports Singapore Botanic Gardens 1911-1928 ff. 1-2
Miscellaneous Reports Straits Settlement-Cultural Products 1869-1909 ff. 184
Miscellaneous Reports Ceylon-Rubber 1880-1908 ff. 81
Miscellaneous Correspondence to Kew Staff
Director's Correspondence vol. 100, English Letters RED-RYE 1856-1900 ff. 126-128
Director's Correspondence vol. 149, Asia Letters 1909-1928 ff. 571-575
Director's Correspondence vol. 168, Malayan Letters-Singapore, Penang, Perack, Malacca 1901-1914 ff. 65-188
Director's Correspondence vol. 166, East Asia Letters II 1866-1900 ff. 556-560
Director's Correspondence vol. 18, English Letters M-Z 1842 ff. 58-89
Director's Correspondence vol. 3, English Letters A-B 1832-1853 ff. 181-182/73
Director's Correspondence vol. 7, English Letters A-G 1836 ff. 147-198
Correspondence with Miss M. M. Whiting, Miscellaneous Correspondence ff. 52
W.T Thisleton-Dyer, Projected Biography ff. 155-169
QG 332 H.N Ridley, General Correspondence
T.F Chipp, Letters 1922-1931 ff. 171
Letters to I.H Burkill ff. 226-229
Letters to W.B Hemsley ff. 121
Letters to W. Mitten 1848-1905 ff. 245-246
SubjectHevea brasiliensis
CopiesThe following items were microfilmed as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP):
HNR/1/4: Photographs of the Utakwa Expedition 1912-1913, 1 vol.
HNR/3/1:Botanical Notebooks (2 vols),
HNR/4/12:Microstylis (apparitions in back of book)( 1 vol),
HNR/4/5: Flora Palaearctica and Order of Plants (1 vol.)
HNR/4/4: Flora Malayana (collecting notes) ( 1 vol)
HNR/5/2: Journey to Rat Island (1 vol)
HNR/5/1:Travels 1888-1912 ( 1 vol)
HNR/5/4: The Book of Travels (or Minute Book) 1887-1912 (1 vol.)
HNR/5/5: Expedition to Fernando Noronha by TS Lee, G Ramage & HN Ridley 1887 1 box) - selected folios only
Photographs of the Utakwa Expedition 1912-1913, 1 vol. HNR/1/4 MF - Select photographs have been digitised- Check disk for details.
Photographs of Christmas Island, 1 vol. HNR/1/1 MF
Letters to H.N Ridley, 7 vols. HNR/2/1 MF Selected folios.
Decorations and Honours, HNR/6/8 MF Selected folios
Life of a Naturalist, HN/3/3 MF
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