Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V13, Page 303 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOHN STEVENS HENSLOW (1796-1861), English botanist ' and geologist, was born at Rochester on the 6th of February 1796. From his father, who was a solicitor in that city, he imbibed a love of natural history which largely influenced his career. He was educated at St John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated as sixteenth wrangler in 1818, the year in which Sedgwick became Woodwardian professor of geology. He accompanied Sedgwick in 1819 during a tour in the Isle of Wight, and there he learned his first lessons in geology. He also studied chemistry under Professor James Cumming and mineralogy under E. D. Clarke. In the autumn of 1819 he made some valuable observations on the geology of the Isle of Man (Trans. Geol. Soc., 1821), and in 1821 he investigated the geology of parts of Anglesey, the results being printed in the first volume of the Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society (1821), the foundation of which society was originated by Sedgwick and Henslow. Meanwhile, Henslow had studied mineralogy with considerable zeal, so that on the death of Clarke he was in 1822 appointed professor of mineralogy in the university at Cambridge. Two years later he took holy orders. Botany, how-ever, had claimed much of his attention, and to this science he became more and more attached, so that he gladly resigned the chair of mineralogy in 1825, to succeed to that of botany. As a teacher both in the class-room and in the field he was eminently successful. To him Darwin largely owed his attachment to natural history, and also his introduction to Captain Fitzroy of H.M.S. " Beagle." In 1832 Henslow was appointed vicar of Cholseycum-Moulsford in Berkshire, and in 1837 rector of Hitcham in Suffolk, and at this latter parish he lived and laboured, endeared to all who knew him, until the close of his life. His energies were devoted to the improvement of his parishioners, but his influence was felt far and wide. In 1843 he discovered nodules of coprolitic origin in the Red Crag at Felixstowe in Suffolk, and two years later he called attention to those also in the Cambridge Greensand and remarked that they might be of use in agriculture. Although Henslow derived no benefit, these discoveries led to the establishment of the phosphate industry in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire; and the works proved lucrative until the introduction of foreign phosphates. The museum at Ipswich, which was established in 1847, owed much to Henslow, who was elected president in 185o, and then superintended the arrangement of the collections. He died at Hitcham on the 16th of May 1861. His publications included A Catalogue of British Plants (1829; ed. 2, 1835); Principles of Descriptive and Physiological Botany (1835); Flora of Suffolk (with E. Skepper) (186o). Memoir, by the Rev. Leonard Jenyns (1862).
End of Article: JOHN STEVENS HENSLOW (1796-1861)

Additional information and Comments

he was my great grandfather. I have the hallmark silver desk set presented to him on his retirement from the Royal Botanical Society. I also used to have (stolen) a fabulous book of drawings with his commentaries on Aesop's fables. He was an incredible artist - talents both my father and my sister inherited. I doubt anyone today would receive such a magnificent piece as the desk set that presented to him on his retirement from the Society. It had two hand cut glass inkwells and the inscription it weights about 4 lbs. I am indirectly involved with the Theosophical Society, and a close friend of mine from Vancouver that I introduced Theosophy to now publishes their monthly magazine. I have often wondered if John belonged to the Theosophical society or had some connection to some of the people. I have read that he was involved with a diverse group of interesting persons. The one part that has never made any sense to me personally is my grandfather. My father was Lt. Col. Gerald Henslow. He was born in Indian Head Saskatchewan where his father ran the grain elevator - there was not much else in Indian Head Saskatchewan. The Canadian Pacific had a station and picked up the grain. There was little else there. My grandfather died when my father was still a child, but my father gained a great wealth of understanding of the world and could do anything. His talents were recognized by a special award given to him by Queen Elizabeth. I have had the great fortune to work with many biologists that graduated from Cambridge, and I was impressed to find out students today still study his work here. e history of the Henslow family goes back the to 12th century. There are drawings of many of the family members along with the history, many were clergy, some were professors, but almost all had some high rank in British Society. Although my father never had a degree he was asked to teach business English at the University of British Columbia, in addition to many other activities.
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