Robert Brown (1773-1858)

Born in Montrose, Robert attended Montrose Grammar until aged 14 and then went to Marischal College, Aberdeen. The family then moved to Edinburgh in 1789 where he studied medicine at Edinburgh University and joined the army as an assistant surgeon.

He was engaged as the naturalist on board the HMS Investigator on the historic Flinders voyage to Australia (New Holland) in 1801 on the recommendation of Joseph Banks. He returned to England in 1805 having collected over 4,000 botanical specimens, of which Brown classified 2,040 (published in his work Prodromus florae Novae Hollandiae in 1810). He was appointed as Joseph Banks's librarian and curator in 1810 and when Banks died in 1820, he inherited the tenancy of his house and custody of his collections. In 1827 Brown transferred the collections to the British Museum and became the first Keep of Botany until his death in 1858.

The Scot was a prominent figure at the Linnean Society, holding the position of Clerk, Librarian and Housekeeper (1805-22) and eventually being elected President (1849-53).

His studies led him to describe and name plant nuclei, and his discovery, under the microscope, of the erratic movement of pollen grains in water was later to be named Brownian motion.

A bust of Robert Brown can be found in the entrance hall of Montrose Library.

This article, written by a descendant, appeared in the Linnean, the journal of the Linnean Society.