S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Lind, Dr James (astronomy, plant collection)

Born: 17 May 1736, Scotland, United Kingdom.
Died: 17 October 1812, London, United Kingdom.

James Lind travelled to China as a surgeon in 1766. Two years later he submitted his inaugural dissertation (in Latin) for the degree Doctor of Medicine (MD) at the University of Edinburgh. An English translation of his dissertation was published in 1772 with the title Treatise on the fever of 1762 at Bengal. He was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1770.

Lind had a wide interest in the physical sciences and was a great lover of tricks and conundrums, so much so that he was considered a better conjurer than a physician. His scientific work included the compilation of a map of the island of Islay in the Hebrides, Scotland, and determining its latitude. In 1769 he observed the transit of Venus and a lunar eclipse from near Edinburgh and published accounts of both events in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. He was elected a Fellow of that society in 1777. Two years later he travelled to Iceland with the botanist Joseph Banks*. In 1775 he published a paper on a portable wind gauge in the Philosophical Transactions and the next year wrote A description of rifled ordnance, fitted with sectors, telescopes, etc. (Edinburgh, 1776, 31 p). Settling at Windsor he later became physician to the household of King George III and had a private printing press. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1783.

In 1779, on his way to India, Lind spent three months at the Cape where he collected some plants for Banks, mainly around False Bay. However, he wrote to Banks from the Cape in October that he considered his efforts hardly worthwhile, considering the intensive collecting that had been done by F. Masson* and W. Paterson*. His specimens went to the herbarium of the British Museum (Natural History). During his stay at the Cape he also made astronomical and meteorological observations.

This James Lind should not be confused with another Scottish physician, also named James Lind (1716-1794) who published important studies on the symptoms, cause and cure of scurvy.

List of sources:
Britten, J. Some early Cape botanists and collectors. Journal of the Linnean Society, Botany, 1920-1922, Vol. 45, pp. 29-51.

Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Oxford dictionary of national biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Compiled by: C. Plug