Robert Brown (botanist)

Robert Brown (botanist)

Overview
Robert Brown was a Scottish botanist and palaeobotanist who made important contributions to botany largely through his pioneering use of the microscope. His contributions include the discovery of the cell nucleus
Cell nucleus
In cell biology, the nucleus is a membrane-enclosed organelle found in eukaryotic cells. It contains most of the cell's genetic material, organized as multiple long linear DNA molecules in complex with a large variety of proteins, such as histones, to form chromosomes. The genes within these...

 and cytoplasmic streaming
Cytoplasmic streaming
Cytoplasmic streaming is the directed flow of cytosol and organelles around large fungal and plant cells. This movement aids in the delivery of nutrients, metabolites, genetic information, and other materials to all parts of the cell...

; the first observation of Brownian motion
Brownian motion
Brownian motion or pedesis is the presumably random drifting of particles suspended in a fluid or the mathematical model used to describe such random movements, which is often called a particle theory.The mathematical model of Brownian motion has several real-world applications...

; early work on plant pollination
Pollination
Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred in plants, thereby enabling fertilisation and sexual reproduction. Pollen grains transport the male gametes to where the female gamete are contained within the carpel; in gymnosperms the pollen is directly applied to the ovule itself...

 and fertilisation
Fertilisation
Fertilisation is the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism. In animals, the process involves the fusion of an ovum with a sperm, which eventually leads to the development of an embryo...

, including being the first to recognise the fundamental difference between gymnosperms and angiosperms; and some of the earliest studies in palynology
Palynology
Palynology is the science that studies contemporary and fossil palynomorphs, including pollen, spores, orbicules, dinoflagellate cysts, acritarchs, chitinozoans and scolecodonts, together with particulate organic matter and kerogen found in sedimentary rocks and sediments...

.
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Encyclopedia
Robert Brown was a Scottish botanist and palaeobotanist who made important contributions to botany largely through his pioneering use of the microscope. His contributions include the discovery of the cell nucleus
Cell nucleus
In cell biology, the nucleus is a membrane-enclosed organelle found in eukaryotic cells. It contains most of the cell's genetic material, organized as multiple long linear DNA molecules in complex with a large variety of proteins, such as histones, to form chromosomes. The genes within these...

 and cytoplasmic streaming
Cytoplasmic streaming
Cytoplasmic streaming is the directed flow of cytosol and organelles around large fungal and plant cells. This movement aids in the delivery of nutrients, metabolites, genetic information, and other materials to all parts of the cell...

; the first observation of Brownian motion
Brownian motion
Brownian motion or pedesis is the presumably random drifting of particles suspended in a fluid or the mathematical model used to describe such random movements, which is often called a particle theory.The mathematical model of Brownian motion has several real-world applications...

; early work on plant pollination
Pollination
Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred in plants, thereby enabling fertilisation and sexual reproduction. Pollen grains transport the male gametes to where the female gamete are contained within the carpel; in gymnosperms the pollen is directly applied to the ovule itself...

 and fertilisation
Fertilisation
Fertilisation is the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism. In animals, the process involves the fusion of an ovum with a sperm, which eventually leads to the development of an embryo...

, including being the first to recognise the fundamental difference between gymnosperms and angiosperms; and some of the earliest studies in palynology
Palynology
Palynology is the science that studies contemporary and fossil palynomorphs, including pollen, spores, orbicules, dinoflagellate cysts, acritarchs, chitinozoans and scolecodonts, together with particulate organic matter and kerogen found in sedimentary rocks and sediments...

. He also made numerous contributions to plant taxonomy, including the erection of a number of plant families that are still accepted today; and numerous Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n plant genera and species, the fruit of his exploration of that continent with Matthew Flinders
Matthew Flinders
Captain Matthew Flinders RN was one of the most successful navigators and cartographers of his age. In a career that spanned just over twenty years, he sailed with Captain William Bligh, circumnavigated Australia and encouraged the use of that name for the continent, which had previously been...

.

Early life


Brown was born in Montrose
Montrose, Angus
Montrose is a coastal resort town and former royal burgh in Angus, Scotland. It is situated 38 miles north of Dundee between the mouths of the North and South Esk rivers...

 on 21 December 1773. He was the son of James Brown
James Brown (Scottish clergyman)
James Brown was a clergyman in the Scottish Episcopal Church, notable as one of a few Jacobite dissenters who refused to abandon their allegiance to the House of Stuart when directed to do so in 1788.James Brown was born around 1734...

, a minister in the Scottish Episcopal Church
Scottish Episcopal Church
The Scottish Episcopal Church is a Christian church in Scotland, consisting of seven dioceses. Since the 17th century, it has had an identity distinct from the presbyterian Church of Scotland....

 with Jacobite
Jacobitism
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 convictions so strong that in 1788 he defied his church's decision to give allegiance to George III. His mother was Helen née Taylor, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. As a child Brown attended the local Grammar School (now called Montrose Academy
Montrose Academy
Montrose Academy is a state secondary school in Montrose, Angus, Scotland. Its history extends as far back as the 16th century grammar school with evidence of schooling in Montrose found as early as 1329. In 1815 Montrose Academy was built and established as an exclusive fee-paying school...

), then Marischal College
Marischal College
Marischal College is a building and former university in the centre of the city of Aberdeen in north-east Scotland. The building is owned by the University of Aberdeen and used for ceremonial events...

 at Aberdeen
Aberdeen
Aberdeen is Scotland's third most populous city, one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas and the United Kingdom's 25th most populous city, with an official population estimate of ....

, but withdrew in his fourth year when the family moved to Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

 in 1790. His father died late the following year.

Brown enrolled to study medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 at the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...

, but developed an interest in botany
Botany
Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

, and ended up spending more of his time on the latter than the former. He attended the lectures of John Walker
John Walker (naturalist)
John Walker was a Scottish minister and natural historian. He was Professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh from 1779 to 1803....

; made botanical expeditions into the Scottish Highlands
Scottish Highlands
The Highlands is an historic region of Scotland. The area is sometimes referred to as the "Scottish Highlands". It was culturally distinguishable from the Lowlands from the later Middle Ages into the modern period, when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout most of the Lowlands...

, alone or with nurserymen such as George Don
George Don
George Don was a Scottish botanist.George Don was born at Doo Hillock, Forfar, Angus, Scotland on 29 April 1797. His father, also named George Don, was Superintendent of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 1802 and his mother was Caroline Clementina Stuart. George was the elder brother of David...

; and wrote out meticulous botanical descriptions of the plants he collected. He also began corresponding with and collecting for William Withering
William Withering
William Withering was an English botanist, geologist, chemist, physician and the discoverer of digitalis.-Introduction:...

, one of the foremost British botanists of his day. Highlights for Brown during this period include his discovery of a new species of grass, Alopecurus alpinus; and his first botanical paper, "The botanical history of Angus", read to the Edinburgh Natural History Society in January 1792, but not published in print in Brown's lifetime.
Brown dropped out of his medical course in 1793. Late in 1794, he enlisted in the Fifeshire Fencibles, and his regiment was posted to Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 shortly after. In June 1795 he was appointed Surgeon's Mate
Surgeon's mate
A surgeon's mate was a rank in the Royal Navy for a medically trained assistant to the ship's surgeon. The rank was renamed assistant surgeon in 1805, and was considered equivalent to the rank of master's mate/mate...

. His regiment saw very little action, however, he had a good deal of leisure time, almost all of which he spent on botany. However he was frustrated by his itinerant lifestyle, which prevented him from building his personal library and specimen collection as he would have liked, and cut him off from the most important herbaria and libraries.

During this period Brown was especially interested in cryptogams, and these would be the subject of Brown's first, albeit unattributed, publication. Brown began a correspondence with William Dickson
William Dickson
William Dickson may refer to:*William Dickson *William Dickson , administrator of Fort Louis in the Falklands in 1833*William Dickson , lawyer, businessman and political figure in Upper Canada...

, and by 1796 was sending him specimens and descriptions of mosses. Dickson incorporated Brown's descriptions into his Fasciculi plantarum cryptogamicarum britanniae, with Brown's permission but without any attribution.

By 1800, Brown was firmly established amongst Irish botanists, and was corresponding with a number of British and foreign botanists, including Withering, Dickson, James Edward Smith
James Edward Smith
Sir James Edward Smith was an English botanist and founder of the Linnean Society.Smith was born in Norwich in 1759, the son of a wealthy wool merchant. He displayed a precocious interest in the natural world...

 and José Correia da Serra
José Correia da Serra
José Francisco Correia da Serra was a Portuguese Abbot, polymath - philosopher, diplomat, statesman, politician and scientist. In some circumstances, he was also known as Abbé Correa.-Biography:...

. He had been nominated to the Linnean Society of London
Linnean Society of London
The Linnean Society of London is the world's premier society for the study and dissemination of taxonomy and natural history. It publishes a zoological journal, as well as botanical and biological journals...

; had contributed to Dickson's Fasciculi; was acknowledged in a number of other works; and had had a species of algae
Algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

, Conferva brownii (now Aegagropila linnaei) named after him by Lewis Weston Dillwyn
Lewis Weston Dillwyn
Lewis Weston Dillwyn, FRS was a British porcelain manufacturer, naturalist and Member of Parliament.He was born in Walthamstow, Essex, the eldest son of William Dillwyn and Sarah Dillwyn...

. He had also begun experimenting with microscopy
Microscopy
Microscopy is the technical field of using microscopes to view samples and objects that cannot be seen with the unaided eye...

. However as an army surgeon stationed in Ireland there seemed little prospect of him attracting the notice of those who could offer him a career in botany.

To Australia on the Investigator


In 1798, Brown heard that Mungo Park
Mungo Park (explorer)
Mungo Park was a Scottish explorer of the African continent. He was credited as being the first Westerner to encounter the Niger River.-Early life:...

 had withdrawn from a proposed expedition into the interior of New Holland
New Holland (Australia)
New Holland is a historic name for the island continent of Australia. The name was first applied to Australia in 1644 by the Dutch seafarer Abel Tasman as Nova Hollandia, naming it after the Dutch province of Holland, and remained in use for 180 years....

 (now Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

), leaving a vacancy for a naturalist
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

. At Brown's request, Correia wrote to Sir Joseph Banks
Joseph Banks
Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet, GCB, PRS was an English naturalist, botanist and patron of the natural sciences. He took part in Captain James Cook's first great voyage . Banks is credited with the introduction to the Western world of eucalyptus, acacia, mimosa and the genus named after him,...

, suggesting Brown as a suitable replacement: He was not selected, and the expedition did not end up going ahead as originally proposed, though George Caley
George Caley
-Early life:Caley was born in Craven, Yorkshire, England, the son of a horse-dealer. He was educated at the Free Grammar School at Manchester for around four years and was then taken into his father's stables. Coming across a volume on farriery, he became interested in the herbs mentioned in...

 was sent to New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

 as a botanical collector for Banks. In 1800, however, Matthew Flinders
Matthew Flinders
Captain Matthew Flinders RN was one of the most successful navigators and cartographers of his age. In a career that spanned just over twenty years, he sailed with Captain William Bligh, circumnavigated Australia and encouraged the use of that name for the continent, which had previously been...

 put to Banks a proposal for an expedition that would answer the question whether New Holland was one island or several. Banks approved Flinders' proposal, and in December 1800 wrote to Brown offering him the position of naturalist to the expedition. Brown accepted immediately.

Preparations


Brown was told to expect to sail at the end of 1800, only a few weeks after being offered the position. However a succession of delays meant the voyage did not get under way until July 1801. Brown spent much of the meantime preparing for the voyage by studying Banks' Australian plant specimens and copying out notes and descriptions for use on the voyage.

Though Brown's brief was collect scientific specimens of all sorts, he was told to give priority to plants, insects, and birds, and to treat other fields, such as geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

, as secondary pursuits. In addition to Brown, the scientific staff comprised the renowned botanical illustrator
Botanical illustrator
A botanical illustrator is a person who paints, sketches or otherwise illustrates botanical subjects such as trees and flowers. The job requires great artistic skill, attention to fine detail, and technical botanical knowledge...

 Ferdinand Bauer
Ferdinand Bauer
Ferdinand Lucas Bauer was an Austrian botanical illustrator who travelled on Matthew Flinders' expedition to Australia.-Biography:...

; the gardener Peter Good
Peter Good
Peter Good was the gardener assistant to botanist Robert Brown on the voyage of HMS Investigator under Matthew Flinders, during which the coast of Australia was charted, and various plants collected.-Biography:...

, whose task was to collect live plants and viable seed for the use of Kew Gardens; the miner
Miner
A miner is a person whose work or business is to extract ore or minerals from the earth. Mining is one of the most dangerous trades in the world. In some countries miners lack social guarantees and in case of injury may be left to cope without assistance....

 John Allen
John Allen (miner)
John Allen was a lead miner, notable as a junior member of the party of naturalists that accompanied the 1801–1803 voyage of HMS Investigator under Matthew Flinders.-Early life:...

, appointed as mineralogist; the landscape artist William Westall
William Westall
William Bury Westall was an English novelist born in Old Accrington, Lancashire, England.Originally a businessman, he later became a journalist who also wrote about 30 pot-boiler romantic novels with titles including The Old Factory, Strange Crimes and Her Ladyship's Secret...

; and the astronomer
Astronomer
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

 John Crosley, who would fall ill on the voyage out and leave the ship at the Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.There is a misconception that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa, because it was once believed to be the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In fact, the...

. Brown was given authority over Bauer and Good, both of whom were instructed to give any specimens that might collect to Brown, rather than forming separate collections. Both men would provide enthusiastic and hard-working companions for Brown, and thus Brown's specimen collections contain material collected by all three men.

Desertas, Madeira and the Cape of Good Hope


The Investigator sailed from London on 18 July. They made brief landfalls at Bugio Island
Bugio Island
Bugio Island is one of the Desertas Islands, a small chain of islands in the archipelago of Madeira, located to the southeast of the island of Madeira....

 (Desertas Islands
Desertas Islands
The Desertas Islands are a small Portuguese archipelago, located about 25 km to the southeast of Ponta de São Lourenço, the eastern tip of the island of Madeira, the whole chain located roughly between Madeira and the Canary Islands.-Geography:...

) and Madeira
Madeira
Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago that lies between and , just under 400 km north of Tenerife, Canary Islands, in the north Atlantic Ocean and an outermost region of the European Union...

, but Brown was disappointed to collect almost nothing of note from either site. They arrived at the Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.There is a misconception that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa, because it was once believed to be the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In fact, the...

 on 16 October, staying a little over two weeks, during which time Brown made extensive botanical expeditions, and climbed Table Mountain
Table Mountain
Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa, and is featured in the flag of Cape Town and other local government insignia. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the cableway or hiking to the top...

 at least twice. Many years later he would write to William Henry Harvey
William Henry Harvey
William Henry Harvey was an Irish botanist who specialised in algae.- Biography :William Henry Harvey was born at Summerville near Limerick, Ireland, in 1811, the youngest of 11 children. His father Joseph Massey Harvey, was a Quaker and prominent merchant...

, who was considering emigrating there, that "some of the pleasantest botanizing he ever had was on Devil's Mountain
Devil's Peak (Cape Town)
Devil's Peak is part of the mountainous backdrop to Cape Town. When looking at Table Mountain from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, or when looking at the standard picture postcard view of the mountain, the skyline is from left to right: the spire of Devil's Peak, the flat mesa of Table Mountain,...

, near Cape Town
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...

, and he thought I could not pitch on a more delightful field of study." Amongst the plants collected at the Cape were two new species of Serruria
Serruria
Serruria is a genus of flowering plants in the family Proteaceae, endemic to South Africa.Species include:...

(Proteaceae
Proteaceae
Proteaceae is a family of flowering plants distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. The family comprises about 80 genera with about 1600 species. Together with the Platanaceae and Nelumbonaceae they make up the order Proteales. Well known genera include Protea, Banksia, Embothrium, Grevillea,...

), S. foeniculacea and S. flagellaris.

Australia


The Investigator arrived in King George Sound
King George Sound
King George Sound is the name of a sound on the south coast of Western Australia. Located at , it is the site of the city of Albany.The sound covers an area of and varies in depth from to ....

 in what is now Western Australia
Western Australia
Western Australia is a state of Australia, occupying the entire western third of the Australian continent. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, the Great Australian Bight and Indian Ocean to the south, the Northern Territory to the north-east and South Australia to the south-east...

 in December 1801. For three and a half years Brown did intensive botanic research in Australia, collecting about 3400 species, of which about 2000 were previously unknown. A large part of this collection was lost, however, when the Porpoise
HMS Porpoise (1799)
HMS Porpoise was a 10-gun sloop originally built in Bilbao, Spain, as the packet ship Infanta Amelia. She was 308 tons, 93ft long on the gun deck and a beam of 27ft, 11 inches. On 6 August 1799 HMS Argo captured her off the coast of Portugal...

 was wrecked en route to England.

Brown remained in Australia until May 1805. He then returned to Britain where he spent the next five years working on the material he had gathered. He published numerous species descriptions; in Western Australia alone he is the author of nearly 1200 species.

Subsequent career



In early 1809 he read his paper called On the natural order of plants called Proteaceae
On the natural order of plants called Proteaceae
On the natural order of plants called Proteaceae, also published as "On the Proteaceae of Jussieu", was a paper written by Robert Brown on the taxonomy of the plant family Proteaceae. It was read to the Linnean Society of London in the first quarter of 1809, and published in March 1810...

to the Linnean Society of London
Linnean Society of London
The Linnean Society of London is the world's premier society for the study and dissemination of taxonomy and natural history. It publishes a zoological journal, as well as botanical and biological journals...

. This was subsequently published in March 1810 as On the Proteaceae of Jussieu. It is significant for its contribution to the systematics
Systematics
Biological systematics is the study of the diversification of terrestrial life, both past and present, and the relationships among living things through time. Relationships are visualized as evolutionary trees...

 of Proteaceae, and to the floristics
Floristics
Floristics is a subdomain of botany and biogeography that studies distribution and relationships of plant species over geographic areas.The term is not to be confused with floristry....

 of Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, and also for its application of palynology
Palynology
Palynology is the science that studies contemporary and fossil palynomorphs, including pollen, spores, orbicules, dinoflagellate cysts, acritarchs, chitinozoans and scolecodonts, together with particulate organic matter and kerogen found in sedimentary rocks and sediments...

 to systematics. This work was extensively plagiarised by Richard Anthony Salisbury
Richard Anthony Salisbury
Richard Anthony Salisbury FRS was a British botanist. While he is remembered as a valuable worker in horticultural and botanical sciences, several bitter disputes caused him to be ostracised by his contemporaries.-Life:...

, who had memorised much of the Linnean reading and then inserted it in Joseph Knight's
Joseph Knight (horticulturist)
Joseph Knight , gardener to George Hibbert, was one of the first people in England to successfully propagate Proteaceae...

 1809 publication On the cultivation of the plants belonging to the natural order of Proteeae
On the cultivation of the plants belonging to the natural order of Proteeae
On the cultivation of the plants belonging to the natural order of Proteeae is an 1809 paper on the Proteaceae family of flowering plants. Although nominally written by Joseph Knight as a paper on cultivation techniques, all but 13 pages consists of an unattributed taxonomic revision now known to...

.

In 1810, he published the results of his collecting in his famous Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae et Insulae Van Diemen
Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae et Insulae Van Diemen
Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae et Insulae Van Diemen is an 1810 flora of Australia by botanist Robert Brown. Often referred to as Prodromus Flora Novae Hollandiae, or by its standard botanical abbreviation Prodr. Fl. Nov. Holland., it was the first attempt at a survey of the Australian flora...

, the first systematic account of the Australian flora. That year, he succeeded Jonas C. Dryander as Sir Joseph Banks
Joseph Banks
Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet, GCB, PRS was an English naturalist, botanist and patron of the natural sciences. He took part in Captain James Cook's first great voyage . Banks is credited with the introduction to the Western world of eucalyptus, acacia, mimosa and the genus named after him,...

' librarian, and on Banks' death in 1820 Brown inherited his library
Library
In a traditional sense, a library is a large collection of books, and can refer to the place in which the collection is housed. Today, the term can refer to any collection, including digital sources, resources, and services...

 and herbarium
Herbarium
In botany, a herbarium – sometimes known by the Anglicized term herbar – is a collection of preserved plant specimens. These specimens may be whole plants or plant parts: these will usually be in a dried form, mounted on a sheet, but depending upon the material may also be kept in...

. This was transferred to the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 in 1827, and Brown was appointed Keeper of the Banksian Botanical Collection
Keeper of Botany, Natural History Museum
The Keeper of Botany is a position at the Natural History Museum in the UK and serves as head of department for botany. The position has been in place since 1827.- Keepers of Botany :...

.

In 1818 he published Observations, systematical and geographical, on the herbarium collected by Professor Christian Smith, in the vicinity of the Congo. In 1822, he was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society and a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences or Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden. The Academy is an independent, non-governmental scientific organization which acts to promote the sciences, primarily the natural sciences and mathematics.The Academy was founded on 2...

.

In a paper read to the Linnean society in 1831 and published in 1833, Brown named the cell nucleus
Cell nucleus
In cell biology, the nucleus is a membrane-enclosed organelle found in eukaryotic cells. It contains most of the cell's genetic material, organized as multiple long linear DNA molecules in complex with a large variety of proteins, such as histones, to form chromosomes. The genes within these...

. The nucleus had been observed before, perhaps as early as 1682 by the Dutch microscopist Leeuwenhoek, and Franz Bauer
Franz Bauer
Franz Andreas Bauer was an Austrian microscopist and botanical artist.Born in Feldsberg, Moravia , he was the son of Lucas Bauer , court painter to the Prince of Liechtenstein, and brother of the painters Josef Anton and Ferdinand Bauer...

 had noted and drawn it as a regular feature of plant cells in 1802, but it was Brown who gave it the name it bears to this day (while giving credit to Bauer's drawings). Neither Bauer nor Brown thought the nucleus to be universal, and Brown thought it to be primarily confined to Monocotyledons.

After the division of the Natural History Department of the British Museum into three sections in 1837, Robert Brown became the first Keeper of the Botanical Department
Keeper of Botany, Natural History Museum
The Keeper of Botany is a position at the Natural History Museum in the UK and serves as head of department for botany. The position has been in place since 1827.- Keepers of Botany :...

, remaining so until his death at Soho Square
Soho Square
Soho Square is a square in Soho, London, England, with a park and garden area at its centre that dates back to 1681. It was originally called King Square after Charles II, whose statue stands in the square. At the centre of the garden, there is a distinctive half-timbered gardener's hut...

 in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 on 10 June 1858. He was succeeded by John Joseph Bennett
John Joseph Bennett
John Joseph Bennett was a British botanist.Bennett was assistant keeper of the Banksian herbarium and library at the British Museum from 1827 to 1858, when he succeeded Robert Brown as Keeper of the Botanical Department. He retired in 1870. He was secretary of the Linnean Society of London from...

.

He served as President of the Linnean Society from 1849 to 1853.

He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery
Kensal Green Cemetery
Kensal Green Cemetery is a cemetery in Kensal Green, in the west of London, England. It was immortalised in the lines of G. K. Chesterton's poem The Rolling English Road from his book The Flying Inn: "For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen; Before we go to Paradise by way of...

 in London.

Brown's name is commemorated in the Australia herb
Herb
Except in botanical usage, an herb is "any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume" or "a part of such a plant as used in cooking"...

 genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Brunonia as well as numerous Australian species such as Eucalyptus brownii, Banksia brownii
Banksia brownii
Banksia brownii, commonly known as Feather-leaved Banksia or Brown's Banksia, is a species of shrub that occurs in southwest Western Australia. An attractive plant with fine feathery leaves and large red-brown flower spikes, it usually grows as an upright bush around two metres high, but can also...

and the moss Brown's Tetrodontium Moss
Tetrodontium brownianum
Tetrodontium brownianum, is a species of moss commonly known as Brown's Tetrodontium Moss or Four-tooth Moss. It is widely distributed. In North America it is found in Washington state and British Columbia on the west coast and from Newfoundland to Ohio to the east...

 (Tetrodontium brownianum), a species which he discovered growing at Roslin
Roslin
Roslin may refer to:Scotland:*Roslin, Midlothian, a village in Midlothian, south of Edinburgh, Scotland, Home to the famous Rosslyn Chapel*Roslin Castle*Roslin Institute, where Dolly the Sheep was cloned...

 near Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

 whilst still a student. The plant can still be found at the site of its discovery.
Passing through the suburb of Kingston, south of Hobart, Tasmania, formerly Van Diemen's Land, is Brown's River, named in his honor, upon the banks of which, he collected botanical samples. Mount Brown
Mount Brown (British Columbia)
Mount Brown is a massif in the Canadian Rockies, located to the west of the Athabasca Pass. It was first ascended in 1827 by the naturalist David Douglas, who then wrote that its "height does not seem to be less than 16,000 or 17,000 feet above the level of the sea"...

  in British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

, Canada is named for him as well.

Brownian motion


In 1827, while examining grains of pollen of the plant Clarkia pulchella
Clarkia pulchella
Clarkia pulchella also known as pinkfairies, ragged robin, and deerhorn clarkia is a species of flowering plant in the Onagraceae family. This wildflower is found in the Pacific Northwest and is the type species of Clarkia...

suspended in water under a microscope
Microscope
A microscope is an instrument used to see objects that are too small for the naked eye. The science of investigating small objects using such an instrument is called microscopy...

, Brown observed minute particles, now known to be amyloplasts (starch organelles) and spherosomes (lipid organelles), ejected from the pollen grains, executing a continuous jittery motion. He then observed the same motion in particles of inorganic matter, enabling him to rule out the hypothesis that the effect was life-related. Although Brown did not provide a theory to explain the motion, and Jan Ingenhousz
Jan Ingenhousz
Jan Ingenhousz or Ingen-Housz FRS was a Dutch physiologist, biologist and chemist. He is best known for showing that light is essential to photosynthesis and thus having discovered photosynthesis. He also discovered that plants, like animals, have cellular respiration...

 already had reported a similar effect using charcoal particles, in German and French publications of 1784 and 1785, the phenomenon is now known as Brownian motion
Brownian motion
Brownian motion or pedesis is the presumably random drifting of particles suspended in a fluid or the mathematical model used to describe such random movements, which is often called a particle theory.The mathematical model of Brownian motion has several real-world applications...

.

In recent years it was generally held that Brown's microscopes were insufficient to reveal phenomena of this order. Brown's re-discoveries were denied in a brief paper in 1991. Shortly thereafter, in a hastily-compiled illustrated presentation, British microscopist Brian J. Ford
Brian J. Ford
Brian J. Ford is an independent research biologist, author, and lecturer, who publishes on scientific issues for the general public...

 presented to Inter Micro 1991 in Chicago a reprise of the demonstration. His video sequences substantiated Brown's observations. Physicist Phil Pearle and colleagues presented a detailed discussion of Brown's original observations of particles from pollen of Clarkia pulchella
Clarkia pulchella
Clarkia pulchella also known as pinkfairies, ragged robin, and deerhorn clarkia is a species of flowering plant in the Onagraceae family. This wildflower is found in the Pacific Northwest and is the type species of Clarkia...

undergoing Brownian motion, including the relevant history, botany, microscopy, and physics.

See also


External links