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Wallich, Nathaniel [formerly Nathanael Wulff Wallich] (1785–1854), botanist, was born at Copenhagen on 28 January 1785, the son of Købmand Wulff Lazarus Wallich (1756–1843), merchant, and his wife, Hanne, née Jacobson (1757–1839). Having graduated MD in 1806 in his native city, where he studied botany under Martin Vahl, he was appointed surgeon to the Danish factory at Serampore, near Calcutta, where he arrived in 1807. When this place was captured by the East India Company in 1808, Wallich, with other officers, was allowed to enter the company's service, and in March 1809 was appointed to assist William Roxburgh at the Royal Botanic Garden, Calcutta. On 30 May 1812 Wallich married Juliane Marie Hals (b. 1797), who was subsequently known as Mary Ann Wallich, but she died just two months later. In 1813 he married Sophia Collings. Together they had at least seven children, two of whom died in infancy. Their son, , was a distinguished oceanographer. On 10 May 1814 Wallich was appointed assistant surgeon, and on 1 August 1817 superintendent of the garden. He at once distinguished himself by his great activity in collecting and describing new plants, causing them to be drawn, and distributing specimens to the chief European and North American gardens and herbaria.

In 1820 Wallich, in conjunction with William Carey (1761–1834), began to publish William Roxburgh's Flora Indica, to which Wallich added much original matter. In the same year he was officially directed to explore Nepal; besides sending many plants home to Banks, Smith, Lambert, Rudge, and Roscoe, he subsequently issued two fascicles of his Tentamen florae Napalensis illustratae, consisting of botanical descriptions and lithographic figures of select Nipal plants (1824 and 1826), printed at the newly established Asiatic Lithographic Press in Serampore. In 1825 he inspected the forests of western Hindustan, and in 1826 and 1827 those of Ava and Lower Burma. He was invalided to England in 1828, and took with him some eight thousand specimens of plants, duplicates of which were widely distributed to both public and private collections. A numerical list of dried specimens of plants in the East India Company's museum, collected under the superintendence of Dr. Wallich (1828–49) contains in all 9148 species. The best set of these was presented by the company to the Linnean Society. From 1829 to 1832 he published his most important work, Plantae Asiaticae rariores, or, Descriptions and figures of a select number of unpublished East Indian plants (3 vols.). He then returned to India, where, among other official duties, he made an extensive exploration of Assam with reference to the discovery of the wild tea shrub. His health, which had been weak for some years, deteriorated further despite a visit to the Cape of Good Hope in 1842–3, and he was finally forced to resign on 9 April 1846. Returning to London in that year Wallich remained active as a botanist. As vice-president of the Linnean Society, of which he was fellow from 1818, he frequently presided over its meetings. He received the degree of MD from Marischal College, Aberdeen, in 1819, was a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the Danish Royal Society of Copenhagen, and was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1829; he was also a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and of the Geological Society of London. In addition to the more important works already mentioned, he is credited with thirty-five papers, mostly botanical, contributed between 1816 and 1854 to various journals including the Asiatick Researches, Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Transactions of the Linnean Society, Journal of Botany, British and Foreign, and the journals of the Asiatic Society of Bengal and the Horticultural Society.

Wallich died at his home, 5 Upper Gower Street, London, on 28 April 1854 and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery on 3 May 1854. An obelisk was erected to his memory by the East India Company in the botanical garden at Calcutta. The genus Wallichia, of the Palmae, and many species commemorate his name.

G. S. Boulger, rev. Andrew Grout

Sources  

[S. Raffles], Letters of Sir Stamford Raffles to Nathaniel Wallich, 1819–1824, ed. J. Bastin, Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, reprint, 8 (1981) · R. de Candolle and A. Radcliffe-Smith, ‘Nathaniel Wallich (1786–1854) and the herbarium of the Honourable East India Company, and their relation to the de Candolles of Geneva and the Great Prodromus’, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 83 (1981), 325–48 · R. Desmond, The European discovery of the Indian flora (1992) · C. Christensen, Den Danske botaniks historie med tilhørende bibliography, 2 (1924–6), 157–60 · F. A. Stafleu and R. S. Cowan, Taxonomic literature: a selective guide, 2nd edn, 7, Regnum Vegetabile, 116 (1988), 37–40 · C. G. G. J. Van Steenis, ed., Flora Malesiana, 1st ser., 1 (1950), 557–8 · C. G. G. J. Van Steenis, ed., Flora Malesiana, 1st ser., 8 (1974), 104 · The Bengal obituary, or, A record to perpetuate the memory of departed worth, Holmes & Co. (1851) · Gardeners' Chronicle (6 May 1854), 284 · Memoir and correspondence of the late Sir James Edward Smith, ed. Lady Smith, 2 (1832), 246, 262

Archives  

BL OIOC, catalogue and drawings, MSS Eur. G 32, 36 · Calcutta Botanic Garden, Calcutta, India · Linn. Soc., papers relating to Burma · RBG Kew, corresp. and papers · RBG Kew, herbarium · U. Edin. L., corresp. |  BL, letters to Sir Joseph Banks, Add. MS 33982 · BL, letters to Thomas Hardwicke, Add. MSS 9869–9870 · Linn. Soc., letters to Sir James Smith · RBG Kew, letters to Sir William Hooker · RS, Herschel MSS (and other MSS)


Likenesses  

J. Lucas, oils, c.1833, Linn. Soc. · M. Gauci, engraving (after A. Robertson), RS · M. Gauci, lithograph (after A. Robertson), BM, Linn. Soc. · D. Macnee, crayon, RBG Kew · T. H. Maguire, lithograph, BM; repro. in T. H. Maguire, Portraits of the honorary members of the Ipswich Museum (1852) · engraving, RS