Harvey, William Henry
Harvey, William Henry
(b. Limerick, Ireland, 5 February 1811; d. Torquay, England, 15 May 1866)
Harvey was the youngest of eleven children of Quaker parents. His precocious interest in natural history became concentrated on botany, particularly the study of algae; at the age of twenty-two he undertook the description of these plants for James Townsend Mackay’s Flora Hibernica (1836). Harvey succeeded his brother as colonial treasurer at Cape Town in 1836; he published The Genera of South African Plants (1838) and made extensive collections of algae and angiosperms until obliged to resign in 1842 because of ill health. In 1844 Harvey was appointed keeper of the herbarium at Trinity College, Dublin, where he began work on his Phycologia Britannica, the first part of which appeared in 1846; the lithographs that he prepared for this and for his other publications are evidence of his ability as a botanical artist.
Harvey traveled in the eastern United States from July 1849 to May 1850, during which time he lectured in Boston and in Washington and made large collections of algae, notably from Florida; these, together with material supplied by other collectors, were described in his account of the marine algae of North America, published between 1852 and 1858. While this work was in progress, Harvey made a lengthy expedition to the southern hemisphere, the most important result of which was his Phycologia Australica (1858–1863).
Following his appointment to the chair of botany at Trinity College in 1856, Harvey, with the cooperation of Otto Wilhelm Sonder, began work on Flora Capensis, based on his South African collections; only three volumes appeared in his lifetime. He died of tuberculosis, five years after his marriage in 1861.
I. Original Works. Harvey’s writings include A Manual of the British Marine Algae... (London, 1841); Phycologia Britannica: Or a History of British Sea-Weeds..., 3 vols. (London, 1846–1851), reissued in 4 vols., each with a title page dated 1846–1851; Nereis Australis, or Algae of the Southern Ocean... (London, 1847); “Nereis Boreali-Americana: Or Contributions to a History of the Marine Algae of North America,” in Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, 3 (1852), art. 4, 1–144; 5 (1853), art. 5, 1–258; 10 (1858), art. 2, 1–140; Phycologia Australica; or, A History of Australian Seaweeds..., 5 vols. (London, 1858–1863); Thesaurus Capensis: Or Illustrations of the South African Flora..., 2 vols. (Dublin, 1859–1863); and Flora Capensis: Being a Systematic Description of the Plants of the Cape Colony, Caffraria and Port Natal, 3 vols. (Dublin-Cape Town, 1859–1863), written with O. W. Sonder—the work was completed with an additional 4 vols. published under the editorship of Sir William Thiselton-Dyer (1896–1925); a supp. to vol. V was issued in 1933.
II. Secondary Literature. See [Lydia Jane Fisher], Memoir of W. H. Harvey, M.D., F.R.S. (London, 1869); Norman Moore, “William Henry Harvey,” in Dictionary of National Biography, XXV (London, 1891), 100; R. L. Praeger, “William Henry Harvey,” in F. W. Oliver, ed., Makers of British Botany (Cambridge, 1913), pp. 204–224; Frans A. Stafleu, Taxonomic Literature (Utrecht-Zug, 1967), pp. 192–193; and D. A. Webb, “William Henry Harvey, 1811–1866, and the Tradition of Systematic Botany,” in Hermathena, no. 103 (1966), 32–45.
Michael E. Mitchell