Hudson, William

views updated

Hudson, William

(b. Kendal, Westmorland, England, 1733; d. London, England, 23 May 1793)


Hudson was born and raised in Kendal, where his father kept the White Lion Inn. He was educated in the Kendal Grammar School and, on completion of his studies, was apprenticed to an apothecary on Panton Street, Haymarket, London

Hudson proved an apt student. During his year apprenticeship he won the Apothecaries’s Company’s prize for botany. Between 1757 and 1758 his horizons were widened when, as resident sublibrarian of the British Museum, he studied the Sloane herbarium. Hudson was subsequently encouraged by Benjamin Stillingfleet, who introduced him to the writings of Linnaeus, to restate John Ray’s Synopsis methodica stirpium Britannicarum in terms of the Linnean system. Thus, in 1762 he published Flora Anglica, which incorporated the work of other naturalists with a rearrangement of the Synopis Hudson’s clear and concise language, accuracy in determining plant locations, accounts of medicinial values of the plants, and addition of valuable synonyms were very useful and popular. Flora Anglica quickly replaced Ray’s Synopsis as the standard English flora and won most English naturalists over to the Linnean sexual system. In 1778 Hudson published a second, enlarged edition of his work; a reprint of the second edition appeared in 1798.

Hudson became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1761 and of the Linnean Society in 1791. Form 1765 to 1771 he was director and botanical demonstrator for the Apothecaries’ Garden. Growing fiscal difficulties at the garden forced Philip Miller to resign in 1770, and in 1771 Hudson tendered his own fresignnation as well.

Hudson’s interests also included insects and mollusks, and he planed to write a Fauna Britannica. Unfortunately a fire in 1783 destroyed his collections, papers, and Panton Street home. Although Hudson continued his interest in natural history, his slender financial resources were not adequate to replace the loss.

Hudson never married. When his mater dies, Hudson took over his apothecary practice and lodged with is widow; on her death, he was joined by here daughter and son-in-law. When the residence was destryoed, they moved to a house on Jermyn Street where, after suffering for several years from what James Edward Smith describes as ulcerated lungs, and a series of paralytic strokes, Hudson dies. He was interred in St. James’s Church, and the remains of his collections were given to the Apothecaries’ Garden in Chelsea.


I. Original Works. Hudson’s only published book is Flora Anglica (London, 1762; 2nd, enl. ed., 1778; 2nd ed. repr. 1789). From 1768 to 1770 he published an annual “Catalogue of the Fifty Plants From Chelsea Garden, presented to the Royal Society by the... Company of Apothecaries” in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 58, 59 , and 60 .

II. Secondary Literature. The most useful sources of inforamtion are articles by James Edward Smith in Abraham Rees, Cyclopaedia XVIII, and G. S. Boulger in Dictionary of National Biography, new ed., X, 155. J. Reynolds Green, A History of Botany in the United kingdowm (London, 1914) pp. 271–273, sheds valuable light on the importance of Hudsons’ work with the Chelsea Aprothecaries’ Garden Richard Pulteney, Historical and Biographical Sketches of the Progress of Botany in England (London, 1790), pp. 351–352, provides supplementary information about Hudson;’s contribution to the acceptance of Linnean taxonomy in England. Accounts of Hudsons’ death appear in Annual Register: Chronicel (1793), pp. 25–26; Gentleman’s Magazine63 (May 1793), 485; and John Nichlos, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century IX (London, 1815), 565–566.

For a bibliography about Hudson, see James Britten and G. S. Boulger, A Brigraphical Index of British and Irish Botanists 2nd ed., rev by A. R. Rendle (London, 1931), pp. 157–158, the most recent and helpful source. The Dictonary of National Biography (see above) is also quite valuable

Roy A. Rauschenberg