Isaac Henry Burkill

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Isaac Henry Burkill
Born (1870-05-18)18 May 1870
near Leeds, Yorkshire, England
Died 8 March 1965(1965-03-08) (aged 94)
Leatherhead, Surrey, England
Fields Botany
Institutions University of Cambridge
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Botanic Garden at Calcutta
Botanic Gardens, Singapore
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Notable awards Linnean Medal (1952)
Author abbrev. (botany) Burkill

Isaac Henry Burkill (18 May 1870 – 8 March 1965) was an English botanist who worked in India and in the Straits Settlements (present day Singapore). He worked primarily in economic botany but published extensively on plant biology, ethno-botany, insect-plant interactions and described several species. He published a two volume compilation on the plants of economic importance in the Malay Peninsula, collating local names and knowledge. He also wrote a detailed history of botany in India. The plant genera Burkillia and Burkillianthus were named in his honour.

Life and career[edit]

Burkill was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, he studied at Repton School and received a B.A. with Honours in Natural Science from Caius College, Cambridge winning the Frank Smart Prize. He then joined the University Herbarium at Cambridge as Curator from 1891 to 1896 during which time he obtained a master's degree. In 1897 he joined the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew as a Herbarium assistant and became a principal assistant in 1899. In 1901 he moved to India as an Assistant Reporter on Economic Products to the Government of India. He worked at the Indian Museum in Calcutta under Sir George Watt who was the Reporter.[1] In 1911-12 he joined as botanist on the Abor Expedition.[2] In 1912 he succeeded H. N. Ridley as Director of the Botanic Gardens, Singapore. He continued the work of his predecessor on the para-rubber and other aspects of economic botany but also reorganized the herbarium, collected specimens from across the region and worked intensively on vernacular names and local knowledge on medicinal plants. In 1935 he published his two-volume Dictionary of economic products of Malay Peninsula, ten years after his retirement which has been reprinted many times. Burkill also collected and compiled information on the collectors of specimens in the region.[3] Burkill also worked in collaboration with the forestry department, conducting research on dipterocarps.[4][5]

Burkill married his cousin Ethel Maud Morrison in 1910.[6] Their son, Humphrey Morrison Burkill, was also a distinguished botanist and also served as Director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens (1957-1969).[7][8]

Botanical publications[edit]

Burkill conducted research on insect pollination and floral biology over the course of many years. He published a series of eight articles in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal from 1906 to 1916. He also encouraged other researchers in the region to study pollination including amateur botanists like Maude Lina West Cleghorn. Burkill applied evolutionary ideas to suggest values of adaptations. In his 1908 study of flowers along a ridge in the Sikkim Himalayas, he suggested that the preponderance of pendulous flowers in the region were an adaptation to protect the nectar and pollen from rain[9] and in his 1952 Hooker lecture he suggested that yams had evolved underground storages to protect themselves from pigs and humans.[10]

Burkill also wrote a seven part series on the history of botany in India, published initially in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society and later as a separate book. This work covered the range of botanical workers in India and is an important source on the topic although there were some minor errors such as a mention of "Dapoli" in place of "Dapuri".[11] Burkill similarly wrote a study on the history of the Singapore botanic garden.[12]

Awards and Distinctions[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Isaac Henry Burkill (BRKL888IH)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ Burkill, I. H. (1924). "The Botany of the Abor expedition.". Rec. Bot. Surv. India. 10 (1): 376–381. 
  3. ^ Burkill, Isaac Henry (Aug 1927). "Botanical Collectors, Collections and Collecting Places in the Malay Peninsula". The Gardens' Bulletin; Straits Settlements. 4. Singapore. pp. 113–202. 
  4. ^ Santapau, H. (1960). "I. H. Burkill in India". The Gardens' Bulletin, Singapore. 17 (3): 341–349. 
  5. ^ Furtado, C.X.; Holttum, R.E. (1959). "I.H. Burkill in Malaya". Gardens Bulletin, Singapore. 17 (3): 350–356. 
  6. ^ Winstedt, R. O. (2011). "Isaac Henry Burkill". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland. 97: 88. doi:10.1017/S0035869X0012413X. 
  7. ^ Turner, Ian Mark (2006). "Obituary: Humphrey Morrison Burkill O.B.E., F.L.S. (1914—2006)". Gardens' Bulletin, Singapore. 58: 133–139. 
  8. ^ Short Biography of H.M. Burkill
  9. ^ Editors (1909). "Annual report for 1908". Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal: xix. 
  10. ^ Burkill, I. H. (1953). "The Hooker Lecture". Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London. 164: 12. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.1953.tb00664.x. 
  11. ^ Agharkar, S.P. (1958). "Chapters on the history of botany in India by I.H. Burkill, in this journal 51:846-878 A correction". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 52. 
  12. ^ Wong, K.M. (2012). "A hundred years of the Gardens' Bulletin, Singapore". Gardens' Bulletin Singapore. 64 (1): 1–32. 
  13. ^ "Recipients of the Linnean Medal" (PDF). Linnean Society of London. Retrieved on 22 December 2008.
  14. ^ IPNI.  Burkill. 

External links[edit]