of Florida and the Caribbean"
John and William Bartram
John Bartram was Americas first great botanist, naturalist and plant explorer. Born in 1699 in Pennsylvania to a Quaker family, he was orphaned at 13 and received little formal education. Yet he taught himself botany, medicine and surgery while working as an agricultural laborer.
From his farm near Philadelphia, Bartram traveled north to Lake Ontario, west to the Ohio River, and south to Florida in search of plants and natural history specimens for his own botanic garden and for collectors in this country and abroad. Throughout his travels alone and later with his son, he made extensive wildlife observations, writing notes and drawing maps. He corresponded with distinguished naturalists in Europe, including Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus. By 1765, his reputation as a plant expert attracted the notice of Britains King George III, who appointed him Royal Botanist, a position he held until his death in 1777.
His son, William, showed an early interest in the natural sciences and a talent for drawing natural objects. The fifth of nine children, William was born in 1739 and, unlike his father, received an excellent formal education. From an early age, he accompanied his father on many collecting trips.
In 1765-66 father and son went on a 400-mile journey of exploration in North Florida, collecting and classifying the flora and fauna of the region. Johns great experience in identifying plants was matched by Williams talent for drawing them. Williams botanical illustrations caught the attention of the famous English botanist, Dr. John Fothergill, who agreed to finance further explorations of the southeastern United States.
William set out in 1773 on a four-year journey to explore North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia "for the discovery of rare and useful productions of nature, chiefly in the vegetable kingdom." He was by profession a scientist, but he was also an adventurer and a romantic. In March of 1774, William Bartram first caught sight of the Atlantic shore. Filled with passion he gazed upon the boundless ocean and wrote, "O thou Creator supreme, almighty! How infinite and incomprehensible thy works! Most perfect, and every way astonishing.
William carried letters introducing him to trade agents who had extensive connections with the Indian tribes of east Florida. He would have been unable to conduct research without the hospitality of pioneers and the assistance of "Negro slaves" and "Indian" guides. He writings about conversations and encounters with the people he met in his travels present a uniquely intimate view of Florida during the late eighteenth century.
His record of the journey published in 1791, Travels, is recognized as a literary and scientific triumph. Still in print and popular today, the book is also a tale of great adventure:
... suddenly a huge alligator rushed out of the reeds, and with a tremendous roar came up, and darted as swift as an arrow under my boat, emerging upright on my lee quarter, with open jaws, and belching water and smoke that fell upon me like rain in a hurricane. I laid soundly about his head with my club, and beat him off; and after plunging and darting about my boat, he went off on a straight line through the water, seemingly with the rapidity of lightening
William Bartram died in 1823. The familys garden, Americas first botanic garden, is still maintained by the City of Philadelphia as Bartrams Garden.
John Bartram http://ncnatural.com/NCNatural/bartram/bartram1.html
Joe Worthams Page A most unusual and eclectic collection of topics, which include a biographical sketch of William Bartram and other writings about Florida. Check the home page directory http://www.usd.edu/~jwortham/ or, for William Bartram, http://www.usd.edu/~jwortham/bartram.html
Historic Bartrams Garden
site of botanical garden with link to