• William Sherard

    1659-1728

    Was an English botanist. He was considered to be the outstanding English botanist of his day. Sherard was born in Bushby, Leicestershire and studied at St John's College, Oxford from 1677 to 1683.

    He studied in Paris from 1686 to 1688 botany under Joseph Pitton de Tournefort and was a pupil of Hermann Boerhaave in Leyden from 1688 to 1689. In 1690 he was as tutor to the family of Sir Arthur Rawdon at Moira, Co Down in Ireland.

    As the seventeenth century passed into the eighteenth, the natural sciences divided into a series of more specialized fields, botany diverging from zoology, and taxonomy from medicine. Many talented individuals became interested in understanding plant products and set to work at the task. Yet, the volume of novelties coming from India, southern Africa, Java, China, Japan, Turkey, and the American colonies was overwhelming the available resources.

    In about 1700, Sherard began to draft a new edition as the volume of new names became too great he asked Johann Jacob Dilleniusohn a German botanist ,to assist him . Caspar Bauhin had accounted for some 6000 names for his Pinax; The herbaria Sir Hans Sloane obtained were critical to the efforts of Sherard were so unorganized, and Sloane had delayed access to them for so long, that even after Sherard's death in 1728, Dillenius was still unable to study them. That manuscript was never finished, and the constant proliferation of names, together with the lack of a single source for all names, caused chaos for all who sought to identify and classify plants.

    Sherard was British Consul at Smyrna from 1703 to 1716, during which time he accumulated a fortune. When he returned to England he became a patron of other naturalists, including Johann Jacob Dillenius, Pietro Antonio Micheli, Paolo Boccone and Mark Catesby.

    When William died in 1728 he endowed a chair of botany at Oxford with the provisio that Dillenius should be the first incumbent. He also left his herbarium, library and manuscript to the University.