David Landsborough (11 August 1779 – 12 September 1854) was a Scottish clergyman and naturalist.
Early life and education
Landsborough was born at Dalry, Glen Kens, Galloway, on 11 August 1779. He was educated at the Dumfries Academy, and from 1798 at the University of Edinburgh. Here, partly by his skill as a violinist, he made the acquaintance of Thomas Brown, the metaphysician, and of the Rev. John Thomson of Duddingston, 'the Scottish Claude Lorraine,' from whom he derived a taste for painting.
Landsborough became tutor in the family of Lord Glenlee at Barskimming in Ayrshire, was licensed for the ministry of the Church of Scotland in 1808, and in 1811 was ordained minister of Stevenston, Ayrshire. In addition to his clerical duties, and while maintaining his scholarship by reading some Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, or Italian daily, Landsborough seems to have early commenced the study of the natural history of his parish and that of the neighbouring island of Arran, which formed the subject of his first publication, a poem in six cantos, printed in 1828.
He began his botanical studies with flowering plants, afterwards proceeding in succession to algæ. lichens, fungi, and mosses. His discovery of a new alga, Ectocarpus Landeburgii, brought him into communication with William Henry Harvey, to whose 'Phycologia Britannica' he made many contributions; while this discovery of new marine animals, such as the species of Æolis and Lepralia that bear his name, introduced him to George Johnston of Berwick.
For many years he kept a daily register of the temperature, wind and weather, and noted the first flowering of plants and the arrival of migratory birds. He also studied land mollusca and the fossil plants of the neighbouring coal-field, one of which, Lyginodendron Landsburgii, bears his name. In 1837 he furnished the account of his parish of Stevenston to the 'Statistical Account' of the parishes of Scotland.
At the disruption of the Scottish church in 1843 he joined the free kirk, and became minister at Saltcoats but the change involved a reduction of income from 350l., to 120l. a year, and the loss of his garden, to which he was much attached. Its place was taken by the seashore, and many hundred sets of algæ prepared by his children under his direction were sold to raise a fund of 200l. in support of the church and schools. In 1845 he contributed a series of articles on 'Excursions to Arran' to 'The Christian Treasury,' and in 1847 they appeared in book form as 'Excursions to Arran, Ailsa Craig, and the two Cumbraes,' a second series being published in 1852. On Harvey's recommendation Landsborough was employed to write a popular history of British seaweeds, and the work, on its appearance in 1849, was so satisfactory, that he was commissioned to prepare a similar 'Popular History of British Zoophytes or Corallines,' which was published in 1852. In 1849 Landsborough was elected an associate of the Linnean Society, and in the following year he was mainly instrumental in the establishment of the Ayrshire Naturalists' Club. He visited most parts of Scotland and Ireland on ministerial duty, and found opportunities of journeying through England and France. In 1852, when upwards of seventy-three, he visited Gibraltar and Tangier, returning by way of the Balearic Isles, Marseilles, Genoa, Turin, and Paris. He reached London, after five months' absence, just in time to witness Wellington's funeral.
An epidemic of cholera broke out in his district in 1854. Landsborough was most assiduous in visiting the sick and dying, but was himself attacked by the disease, and succumbed, after a very brief illness at Saltcoats on 12 September 1854. Landsborough is said to have discovered nearly seventy species of plants and animals new to Scotland, and thus well earned the title of 'the Gilbert White of Ardrossan.' He received the degree of D.D. from an American college in 1849. Besides the species already mentioned, in New Zealand genus of algæ was dedicated to him by Harvey as Landsburgia. Landsborough married in 1817 Margaret, daughter of James M'Leish of Port Glasgow, by whom he had four sons and three daughters. One son, William, an Australian explorer; and another, David, free kirk minister of Kilmarnock. has edited the work on Arran. with a memoir of the writer (Ardrossan. 1875, 8vo).
In addition to the works above mentioned, of which the 'Popular History of British Seaweeds' reached a third edition in 1857, Landsborough published 'Ayrshire Sketches, or Memoirs of J. Charters, H. Cuninghame, and J. Baird,' 1839. 18mo: a series of religious biographies. His contributions to the 'Annals and Magazine of Natural History' and to the "Zoologist' deal with phosphorescence, the habits of the rook, and the pliocene and post-pliocene deposits at Stevenston.
- Memoir by David Landsborough in his edition of his father's work on Arran, 1875
- Proceedings of the Linnean Society, ii. 426