James Sykes Gamble

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James Sykes Gamble
James Sykes Gamble.png
James Sykes Gamble
Born2 July 1847
Died16 October 1925 (1925-10-17) (aged 78)
Haslemere, West Sussex
Known forThe book A Manual of Indian Timbers
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society
Scientific career

James Sykes Gamble CIE FRS FLS (2 July 1847 – 16 October 1925) was an English botanist who specialized in the flora of the Indian sub-continent; he became Director of the British Imperial Forest School at Dehradun, and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Early life and education[edit]

Gamble was born at Portland Place, London, the second son of Harpur Gamble, M.D., R.N. and Isabella. He completed his formal education at the Royal Naval School, New Cross, before going up to Oxford, where he attended Magdalen College, studying mathematics, at which he excelled, gaining a First in the Final Schools in 1868. In the same year, he sat for the Indian Civil Service examinations, and gained an appointment in the Indian Forest Department the following year. Gamble later studied at the École nationale des eaux et forêts, Nancy (1869-1871) where he gained an interest in taxonomy.[1][2]


Gamble sailed for India in 1871 to join the Imperial Forest Department,[3] and ultimately became Director of the Imperial Forest School at Dehradun.[4] His first posting was in Burma but after a year he moved to Bengal where he worked in the Darjeeling forests. Here he produced the first list of the trees and shrubs of Darjeeling. From 1872 to 1877 he worked mostly in the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri area with short visits to Allahabad and Shimla. In 1877 he moved to the capital in Shimla where he worked on the local flora. In 1879 he moved back to Calcutta and travelled around the Sunderbans, Chota Nagpore, Santal Parganas and Orissa regions. He worked along with his colleague Sulpiz Kurz at the Calcutta Herbarium and Dr George King. In 1890, Gamble founded the Forest School Herbarium (renamed the Dehradun Herbarium in 1908). In 1882 he was made Conservator in the Madras Presidency and here he worked in collaboration with W. A. Talbot of the Bombay Presidency. During this time he took an interest in the cultivation of Eucalyptus globulus in the Nilgiris. In 1890 he moved to the North-West Provinces and became Director of the Forest School in Dehra Dun. He stayed in this post until his retirement in 1899. At Dehra Dun he developed his collections, adding from the Himalayan regions and also receiving specimens from J.F. Duthie and C.G. Rogers. This collection was described by Sir George King in 1899 as "probably the largest collection of plants ever owned in India." After his retirement Gamble also collected at the Cape of Good Hope in 1890 and from Switzerland, Italy, Sardinia, Malta, Gibraltar and South Norway.[2] He was appointed CIE in the 1899 Birthday Honours

After retirement he continued to work on forestry, helping found the Forestry School at Oxford. His collection of nearly 50,000 specimens were gifted to Kew.[2][5]

Author of several books, his magnum opus was A Manual of Indian Timbers. He was also the author of many papers on forestry and botanical subjects in the Indian Forester, of which he was a founding editor. Another major work was the Flora of the Presidency of Madras (1915) of which five parts were published during his lifetime and he was working on the seventh at the time of his death. This was a major work and required obtaining specimens from the botanical gardens at Calcutta, the forest herbarium at Travancore, the Agricultural College at Coimbatore and the Royal Botanic Garden at Edinburgh. He also made use of the specimens in the Madras Herbarium at Kew presented by Sir Alfred Gibbs and Lady Bourne.[2] The work was completed by C.E.C. Fischer. It remains a major guide for the region.[6]

Other works[edit]

Retirement and marriage[edit]

Gamble retired to the UK in 1899, settling at Highfield, Liss, Hampshire, where he planted 72 acres with exotic trees, using many of the seeds he had collected. In 1911, he married Gertrude Latter.[1]


Gamble died aged 78 on 16 October 1925 at the College Hospital, Haslemere, a few days after a surgery.[1]


In 1879, botanist C.B.Clarke published Gamblea, a genus of plants of the family Araliaceae, from Indo-China, and named in Gamble's honour.[7]

In 1899, Gamble was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, his candidature citation describing him as: 'Conservator of Forests, School Circle, NW Provinces, India, and Director of the Imperial Forest School, Dehra Dunn. Fellow of the University of Madras, and ex officio Fellow of the University of Allahabad...'[6]


NB: Gamble is listed erroneously as J. H. Gamble in some treatises.


  1. ^ a b c Obituary: James Sykes Gamble 1847-1925. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. pp. xxxviii - xliii. Vol.99, No.699 (May 1, 1926).
  2. ^ a b c d "Miscellaneous Notes". Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew). 1925 (10): 433–440. 1925. JSTOR 4115105.
  3. ^ "GAMBLE, James Sykes". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 655.
  4. ^ "obit. Mr. J. S. Sykes, C.I.E., F.R.S." Nature. 116 (2923): 684–685. 7 November 1925. doi:10.1038/116684a0.
  5. ^ "The Gamble Herbarium". Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew). 1926 (1): 12–17. 1926. doi:10.2307/4114317. JSTOR 114317.
  6. ^ a b "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 31 January 2011.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Gamblea C.B.Clarke | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science". Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  8. ^ IPNI.  Gamble.

External links[edit]