Michael Pakenham Edgeworth

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Michael Pakenham Edgeworth
Dr. John Adamson (Scottish - Michael Pakenham Edgeworth. - Google Art Project.jpg
Edgeworth c. 1843–1845
Born 24 May 1812
County Longford, Ireland
Died 30 July 1881(1881-07-30) (aged 69)
Eigg Island, Scottish Inner Hebrides
Residence India
Citizenship Irish
Fields botany
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Author abbrev. (botany) Edgew.
Partners Christina (née Macpherson)

Michael Pakenham Edgeworth (24 May 1812 – 30 July 1881) was an Irish botanist who specialized in seed plants and ferns,[1] and spent most of his life and work in India.

Early life and family relations[edit]

He was born in County Longford, Ireland on 24 May 1812,[2] one of twenty-four children[3] of Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744–1817) and his four wives. His mother, Frances Beaufort, was the fourth wife. His older half-sister Maria Edgeworth, born to his father's first wife Anna Maria Edgeworth (née Elers), became a novelist. Among his other siblings were Honora (half-sister), Fanny (sister), Lucy (sister), and Francis (brother). With his wife Christina, whom he married in 1842, Michael had a daughter named Harriet and a second, Christina, who died in infancy.[4]


He attended Charterhouse School in England from September 1823, and then studied oriental languages and botany at University of Edinburgh, Scotland, from 1827.[2] From 1829 - 30 he was at the East India College, Haileybury, ending with appointment to the East India Company on 30 April 1831 as a writer.


Although he is known to have had an estate of 1,659 acres (671 ha)[5] in County Longford, Ireland, at a young age he left for India in 1831 to join the Indian Civil Service of the British Colonial regime. He was initially based at Ambala, Muzaffarnagar, then Saharanpur and finally Banda until 1850 in a series of judicial and administrative posts covering an area from Lahore to Madras.[6] Being possessed of a curious spirit, Edgeworth travelled widely throughout India[6] and the island of Ceylon[citation needed] (present day Sri Lanka) where he collected plants and made notes. In 1850 he was made the Chief of Police of the English settlement Punjab.[citation needed] In addition to his interest in botany, he also wrote about Indian tongues,[citation needed] culture, topography, and antiquities.[6]

But he was not always in India; he maintained a connection with scientific societies, being elected to the Linnenan Society in 1842.[2] On a return voyage to India in 1846 he took advantage of a short stop at Aden to collect plants. Of the 40 specimens, eleven turned out to be previously undescribed species that he reported in a scientific journal. [7] In correspondence[8] from Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker mentions a conversation held between himself, Edgeworth and biologists John Lubbock and George Charles Wallich, at a meeting of the Linnean Society of London (18 April 1861) less than two years after the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species (22 November 1859). Unfortunately, very little of the content of this conversation is revealed in the letter.[8]

He experimented with the use of photography techniques in botany from 1839, making daguerreotypes and photogenic drawings, some of which survive. [2]


He retired in 1859, returning to London. Edgeworth died suddenly on 30 July 1881 on the island of Eigg, in the Scottish Inner Hebrides.[2]

Published works[edit]

He published thirteen papers on botany, climatology and and his travels. In the field of botany, Edgeworth wrote:

Descriptions of Some Unpublished Species of Plants from North-Western India (R.Taylor, 1851)[9]
Catalogue of Plants found in the Banda district, 1847–49, pp.60.8 (Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta 1852, Vol. xxi.)[10]
Pollen (Hardwicke + Bogue, 1877)[9]

He also kept meticulous diaries from the years 1828 (just a few years before going to India) to 1867, compiled in the weighty, 8,000-page volume entitled India in the Age of Empire - The Journals of Michael Pakenham Edgeworth (1812–1881). It chronicles the broadening of British imperial influence in the Indian territories and is principally of cultural and political interest.[6] It was published after his death in 1881.

Botanical names[edit]

The plant genus Edgeworthia was dedicated to him.[11]


  1. ^ "Index of Botanists: Record number 102372". Harvard University Herbaria. President and fellows of Harvard College. April 7, 2008. Retrieved May 20, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Jackson, Benjamin Daydon; and Grout, Andrew (May 2010). Edgeworth, Michael Pakenham. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online version). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8477. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. Retrieved February 20, 2015. Edgeworth, Michael Pakenham (1812–1881), botanist and East India Company servant, was born on 24 May 1812 at Edgeworthstown, co. Longford, Ireland 
  3. ^ "Longford: Loveliest County of the Irish Plain". Ireland for Visitors. Retrieved March 24, 2009. 
  4. ^ Priestman, Judith; Mary Clapinson; Tim Rogers (1993). "Catalogue of the papers of Maria Edgeworth (1768–1849), and the Edgeworth family, 17th-19th century". University of Oxford, Bodleian Library. Retrieved June 8, 2013. 
  5. ^ "County Longford Landowners 1870's". Ireland Genealogy Projects. Retrieved March 24, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d Edgeworth, Michael Pakenham. "INDIA IN THE AGE OF EMPIRE: The Journals of Michael Pakenham Edgeworth (1812–1881) from the Bodleian Library, Oxford". Adam Matthew Publications. Retrieved February 20, 2015.  Archived July 17, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Edgeworth, Edward (1847). "Two hours' herborization at Aden". Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. 16: 1211. 
  8. ^ a b "Darwin, C.R. to Hooker, J.D., 23 [April 1861]". Darwin Correspondence Project. University of Cambridge. Retrieved January 28, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b "Michael Pakenham Edgeworth". Open Library. October 17, 2008. Retrieved March 24, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Full text of "Catalogue of the books, manuscripts, maps and drawings in the British Museum (Natural History)"". Archive.org. April 23, 1904. Retrieved March 24, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Edgeworthia chrysantha". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved June 30, 2011.  Archived March 28, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ IPNI.  Edgew. 

External links[edit]

The Potomac Valley Chapter North American Rock Garden Society 
The Harvard University Herbarium