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Sherard, William

1. Dates
Born: Bushby, Leicestershire, 27 Feb. 1659
Died: London, 11 Aug. 1728
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 69
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
George Sheerwood (or Sherwood) is described only as a gentleman. Perhaps that could mean gentry, but I find it too indeterminate to categorize. Sherard's initial career as tutor does not suggest gentry.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: English, Irish
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: Oxford, L.D., Paris, Leiden
Merchant Taylor's School.
Oxford University, St. John's College, 1677-83; B.C.L., 1683; D.C.L., 1694.
He studied botany at Paris and Leiden between the two degrees at Oxford, 1685-8.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
By assumption.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Botany, Natural History
Sherard collected plants in the Alps, in Italy, Greece, and Anatolia, and in Cornwall and Jersey; from his expeditions he furnished lists that John Ray utilized in his works.
He published Schola botanica, a list of plants in the Jardin du Roi in Paris, 1689, and Paul Hermann's Paradisus batavus, 1698.
About 1695 he began a revision of Bauhin's Pinax on which he worked for the rest of his life, though he never finished or published it.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Merchant
Secondary: Academia, Patronage, Government
Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford, 1683-1703.
Tutor to Sir Arthur Rawdon, 1690-4, in Ireland.
Tutor to Charles, Viscount Townsend, 1694.
Tutor to the eldest son of Lord Russell, 1697-9.
Tutor to Henry, Duke of Beaufort, 1700-02.
Commissioner for the sick and wounded, and for the exchange of prisoners, 1702. I'd like to know how he got this appointment; I'd bet a month's salary it was through the patronage of one of those families in which he tutored. The position appears to have been the beginning of his prosperity.
Consul of the Levant Company, 1703-17. He amassed a considerable fortune.
8. Patronage
Types: Gentry, Aristrocrat
Sir Arthur Rawdon.
Henry, Duke of Beaufort.
Sherard made a tour to the continent as tutor to Charles, Viscount Townsend in 1694.
He made another journey through France and Italy with the oldest son of Lord Russell.
It is worth noting that when he was rich Sherard became a patron himself: Dillenius, Catesby, and the Italian naturalists Micheli and Boccone. He was instrumental in the publication of Vaillant's Botanicon parisiense, 1727. He gave his herbarium, papers, and library to Oxford and endowed the chair in botany there.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: None
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Royal Society
Informal Connections: Close friendship with Jacob Bobart. Friendship with Ray.
He was a pupil of Tournefort, and Hermann.
Quarreled with Sloane for some years.
Assisted Boerhaave in editing the life work of the ailing Sebastien Vailant.
Edited Paul Hermann's manuscript of Paradisus Batavus in 1695 (published in 1698).
Assisted Pier Antonio Micheli and Paolo Boccone with subscriptions for publication.
Bequeathed 3000 to endow the chair for botany at Oxford, nominating Dillenius as the first professor (under the endowment). He had brought Dillenius to England in 1621 to assist him on the Pinax.
Sherard is another demonstration of the existence of a true scientific community (in this case concerned with botany). He was the friend and correspondent of nearly every major botanist of his age. A considerable number of letters to and from him survive among the Sloane Manuscripts in the British Library, in the Royal Society, and at Oxford.
Royal Society, 1718. Council, 1719, 1720.
  1. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 18, 67-8. G.T. Gunther, Oxford Gardens, (Oxford, 1912).
  2. J. Britten and G.S. Boulger, A Biographical Index of Deceased British and Irish Botanists, (London, 1931), p. 274.
  3. Richard Pulteney, Historical and Biographical Sketches of the Progress of Botany in England, (London 1790), 2, 141-50.
  4. W.L. Tjaden, "William and James Sherard and John James Dillenius: Some Errors in the Biographies," Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History, 8 (1977), 143-7. This article corrects a number of small factual errors about Sherard.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. B.D. Jackson, "A Sketch of the Life of William Sherard," Journal of Botany, 12 (1874), 129-38.
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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