William Herbert (botanist) facts for kids

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William Herbert
Born (1778-01-12)12 January 1778
Died 28 May 1847(1847-05-28) (aged 69)
Nationality British
Alma mater Eton College
Christ Church
Exeter College
Merton College
Known for Early taxonomy of bulbous plants
Scientific career
Fields Botany
Author abbrev. (botany) Herb.

The Hon. William Herbert (12 January 1778 – 28 May 1847) was a British botanist, botanical illustrator, poet, and clergyman. He served as a member of parliament for Hampshire from 1806 to 1807, and for Cricklade from 1811 to 1812. His botanical writings are noted for his treatment of Amaryllidaceae.


He was the third son and fifth child of Henry Herbert, 1st Earl of Carnarvon, by Lady Elizabeth Alicia Maria, eldest daughter of Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont. He was born on 12 January 1778, and was educated at Eton College. On 16 July 1795 Herbert matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, but soon migrated to Exeter College, where he graduated B.A. on 6 June 1798. Subsequently, moving to Merton College, he proceeded M.A. 23 November 1802, B.C.L. 27 May 1808, D.C.L. 2 June 1808, and B.D. 25 June 1840. In a political career, he was elected M.P. for Hampshire in 1806, and for Cricklade in 1811, and also seems to have practised at the bar. But soon after retiring from parliament in 1812 he changed his plans. In 1814 he was ordained, and was nominated to the rectory of Spofforth in the West Riding of Yorkshire. He left Spofforth in 1840 on his promotion to Dean of Manchester.

Herbert died suddenly at his house in Hereford Street, Park Lane, London, on Friday, 28 May 1847.


The International Bulb Society awards The Herbert Medal to persons making meritorious achievement in advancing the knowledge of bulbous plants.


Herbert married the Hon. Letitia Emily Dorothea, second daughter of Joshua Allen, 5th Viscount Allen, on 17 May 1806, and was father of Henry William Herbert and three other children.

Commentary on Herbert

Charles Darwin wrote in On the Origin of Species (1859):

Natural Selection, as we shall hereafter see, is a power incessantly ready for action, and is as immeasurably superior to man's feeble efforts, as the works of Nature are to those of Art. ...The elder De Candolle and Lyell have largely and philosophically shown that all organic beings are exposed to severe competition. In regard to plants, no one has treated this subject with more spirit and ability than W. Herbert, Dean of Manchester, evidently the result of his great horticultural knowledge.

Andrew Dickson White wrote in A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896):

About 1820 Dean Herbert, eminent as an authority in horticulture, avowed his conviction that species are but fixed varieties.

Science historian Conway Zirkle has written that Herbert had recognized the struggle for existence. According to Zirkle "he approached very closely to the natural selection hypothesis when he suggested that winter hardiness might become established in a hybrid stock through the survival of chance variations."

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William Herbert (botanist) Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.