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Evelyn, John

1. Dates
Born: Wotton, Surrey, 31 Oct. 1620
Died: London, 27 Feb. 1706
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 86
2. Father
Occupation: Gentry
Richard Evelyn, who was High Sheriff of Surrey and Sussex in 1633-4, was the son of a man who made an immense fortune through the introduction of the manufacture of gunpowder into England. Richard, the youngest of sixteen sons (not all of whom survived) inherited enough of the wealth to be well established as a country gentleman himself.
The family was clearly wealthy; Richard Evelyn apparently had an income of about L4000.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: Oxford, Padua
Evelyn was admitted to the Middle Temple in Feb. 1637; however, he studied the law only briefly.
Oxford University, Balliol College, 1637-40. Degrees had no meaning to a country gentleman like Evelyn; he never took one.
Studied anatomy and physiology in Padua, 1645-6. Note that he did formally matriculate at Padua.
Studied chemistry in England and France, 1646-9.
An honorary degree of D.C.L., 1669, which I will not list.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Botany
Evelyn laid out famous gardens at Sayes Court and worked all his life on a projected treatise on gardening, to be called Elysium britannicum, which he never completed and published, though various parts of it were.
He did publish a translation of a French work on gardening (more than one, I think), and in 1664 Kalendarium hortense, or the Gardener's Almanack.
1664, Sylva, a book on timber and Evelyn's most important work. Attached to Sylva was Pomona, on fruit growing for cider.
Evelyn also published a translation of Lucretius, De rerum natura.
Evelyn was more a literary figure than a scientist; he wrote on a wide variety of topics.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Personal Means
Secondary: Government
Evelyn was able to travel abroad during virtually the whole of the Civil War--from 1643-7 and again 1649-52.
He inherited an estate from his father, 1640, about L7000, and succeeded to the family's estate of Wotton, 1700. He married well and appears to have had financial support from his father-in-law, Sir Richard Browne, less or more, beginning 1652. He lived for forty years at Sayes Court, at Deptford, Kent, originally the estate of his father-in-law though Evelyn did purchase it. In 1683 his wife inherited all of her father's estate, though I do not know its precise amount.
Evelyn held a number of governmental offices:
Commission for the improvement of London streets, 1662.
Commission for the Royal Mint, 1663.
Commission for the repair of St. Paul's Cathedral, 1666.
Commission for the sick snd wounded marines and prisoners of war, with salary L300 /year, 1664-7, 1672-4.
Council of Trade and Foreign Plantations, L500 /year, 1671-4.
Commission for the Privy Seal, 1686-7, with a salary of L500 /year plus fees.
Treasurer of Greeenwich Hospital, 1695-1703, L200 /year.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Aristrocrat
Charles II showed Evelyn, who had been a staunch if unheroic royalist, much favour. He obtained the King's leave to compound with the occupiers in 1552 and he succeded in compounding in fee farm for L3500 in 1653. Between 1662- 85, the King granted him the early positions above. Evelyn dedicated Fumifugium, 1661, and Sylva, 1664, as well as other works, to Charles.
James also showed him minor favor.
When he was young, Evelyn, who was well to do, was largely independent of patronage except for the obvious relation to the court. In his old age, his needs kept outstripping his means--especially the need to provide for his son and then his grandson, and he became increasingly dependent on aristocratic patrons, especially the Earl of Godolphin (with whose wife, Margaret, Evelyn had been especially friendly, in a wholly Platonic relationship), who obtained the post of treasurer to Greenwich Hospital for Evelyn in 1695. Godolphin was instrumental in the advancement of Evelyn's rather limited son, John, and then the grandson, Jack, who married a niece of Godolphin. Evelyn dedicated Numismata to Godolphin's son Francis, and even composed a life of Godolphin's wife, Margaret.
He dedicated Discourse of Sallets, 1699, to Lord Somers, the Lord Chancellor.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Agriculture
He was involved in the plan for the rebuilding of the city, but the plan was impractical. (I don't regard this as technological.)
Evelyn was a recognized authority on gardening, who published a number of works on the subject. His Pomona on fruit trees for cider belongs here.
The purpose of Sylva was explicitly to provide England with timber.
I gather from the title of an article that I ran into (but have not read) that Evelyn may have a claim to the invention of the heated greenhouse.
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Royal Society
Informal connections: He collaborated several times with Christopher Wren during his lifetime. Friendship with John Wilkins and Robert Boyle. He corresponded with Boyle, and sent him a suggestion for the foundation of a mathematical college or community for scientific study in 1559. He was a very close friend of Samuel Pepys.
Royal Society from its foundation, 1660-1706. He was a member of the original Council, 1662. Secretary, 1672, 1682, 1691. He refused the presidency on three occasions.
  1. William Bray, ed., Diary and Correspondence of John Evelyn, DA447 .E9A2 E.S. De Beer, "John Evelyn, F.R.S. (1620-1706)," Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, 15, 131-8.
  2. _____, "Introduction: I. Evelyn's Life and Character," The Diary of John Evelyn, 6 vols. (New York, 1955), 1, 1-42. The De Beer edition is the definitive edition of the diary.
  3. Biographia Britannica, 2nd ed. (London, 1778-93), 5, 609-34.
  4. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-1950), 6, 943-7. John Bowle, John Evelyn and his World, (London, 1981). An inferior work, which no one else should waste time on.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Arthur Ponsonby, John Evelyn. Fellow of the Royal Society, Author of "Sylva", (London, 1933).
  2. Geoffrey Keynes, John Evelyn, a Study in Bibliophily, with a Bibliography of his Writings, (Oxford, 1970).
  3. Beatrice Saunders, John Evelyn and his Times, (Oxford, 1970).
  4. Jeannne K. Welcher, John Evelyn, (New York, 1972).
  5. Couglas Chambers, "John Evelyn and the Invention of the Heated Greenhouse," Garden History, 20 (1992), 201-6.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

1995 Al Van Helden
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