John Richardson (naturalist)

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John Richardson

Sir John Richardson (born November 5, 1787 in Dumfries , Scotland , † June 5, 1865 in Grasmere , Westmorland ) was a Scottish natural historian , medic , botanist , zoologist , geologist , polar explorer, ichthyologist and explorer. Its official botanical author abbreviation is " Richardson ".


In 1801 Richardson began his medical and partial natural history studies at the University of Edinburgh . In addition, he served 1804-06 as a house surgeon at the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary , the hospital in Dumfries . He left the university in 1807 and joined the British Navy . There he served as an assistant surgeon and chief surgeon on various ships in the British fleet and toured the North Atlantic , the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea . In 1816 he made his doctorate in medicine in Edinburgh .

Richardson was ordered to accompany Rear Admiral Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) in his search for the Northwest Passage in 1819-22 as third and 1825-27 as second surgeon . He made botanical, ichthyological and geological observations and recorded them in several scientific works. The plants he collected during these trips are described by the British botanist William Jackson Hooker in his two-volume work Flora boreali-americana (1829–1840).

In the years 1824-38 Richardson served in the Chatham Marine Division as a surgeon, from 1828 as chief physician at Melville Hospital and completed his natural history studies. He was then offered the position of chief physician at the Royal Naval Hospital in Haslar . There it was more possible to research natural history than in the medical direction, and he also became a mentor of scientific luminaries such as Charles Darwin (1809–1882) or Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895). In 1840 he was appointed Navy Hospital Inspector and held the post until his retirement.

For the search for the missing John Franklin (1847–49), Richardson were chosen as Commander and John Rae (1813–1893). However, it went out unsuccessfully. Richardson also used the trip to explore the region around the Mackenzie River and Cape Kendall .

In 1855 Sir Richardson retired in Grasmere, but in 1857 he received another doctorate, this time in law at the University of Dublin . He died in Grasmere on June 5, 1865.


Richardson became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1825 and was promoted to a Knight Bachelor degree by Queen Victoria in 1846 . In 1855 he became an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh . He was awarded the Royal Medal by the Royal Society of London in 1856 . The Richards Island in the Northwest Territories, the Richardson Mountains in northern Canada and the Richardson River in Nunavut are named after him. The Richardson ground squirrel also bears his name.


  • Fauna Boreali-Americana or The Zoology of the northern parts of British America . Murray, London 1829-31.
  • The Zoology of the voyage of HMS Erebus & Terror, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross during the years 1839 to 1843. Janson, London 1844-75.
  • The museum of natural history. New York 1862.


  • HA Hochbaum, JW Thomson et al .: Arctic ordeal. Kingston 1985. ISBN 0-7735-0418-4
  • Robert E. Johnson: Sir John Richardson. Taylor & Francis, London 1976.

Single references

  1. Robert Zander : Zander hand dictionary of plant names . Ed .: Fritz Encke , Günther Buchheim, Siegmund Seybold . 13th, revised and expanded edition. Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-8001-5042-5 .
  2. ^ William Arthur Shaw: The Knights of England. Volume 2, Sherratt and Hughes, London 1906, p. 346.
  3. ^ Fellows Directory. Biographical Index: Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002. (PDF file) Royal Society of Edinburgh, accessed April 2, 2020 .

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