Archibald Menzies

1754 - 1842

Plant hunter. Born at Stix (Perth and Kinross), Menzies was educated at the school at Weem and then studied botany and medicine under Professor John Hope (1725-86) at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1781. After a brief period practising in Wales, Menzies joined the Royal Navy as a ship's surgeon. He served first on the North American Station at Halifax (Nova Scotia) before joining HMS Prince of Wales for a three-year voyage to the North Pacific via South America. Having made his reputation as a botanist and plant-collector, Menzies was quickly appointed to serve aboard HMS Discovery during its voyage around the world from 1790 under Captain George Vancouver, who gave his name to the Canadian island and city. He was tasked with recording the natural history of the countries visited and also won respect for ensuring the good health of the sailors. He recorded a remarkable number of floral and faunal species for the first time, returning with dried specimens, seeds and live plants cultured in glass frames on the deck of his ship, all of which were brought back to Kew Gardens (London). Thereafter, Menzies served with the Navy in the West Indies and he was awarded a medical doctorate by the University of Aberdeen in 1799.

Following his retirement from the navy, he practised as a doctor and surgeon in Notting Hill (London) and he died there at an advanced age. His name is remembered in several plant species, including the Douglas Fir Pseudotsuga menziesii, the broadleaf evergreen tree Arbutus menziesii and the Hawaiian shrubs Abutilon menziesii and Bonamia menziesii, together with Mount Menzies, Menzies Bay and Menzies Point in British Columbia (Canada). He was also responsible for bringing the Monkey Puzzle tree (Araucaria auricana) to Britain for the first time, having collected its seeds in Chile.

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