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Augustine Henry

1857 - 1930

Plant collector. Born in Dundee, Henry was brought up in County Derry (Ireland) and studied medicine at Queen's University, Belfast. In 1881, he joined the Chinese Imperial Customs Service as an Assistant Medical Officer. An intelligent man, he quickly learned the language and was given a remote posting to Yichang in Hubei Province (Central China) tasked with finding medicinal plants. His amateur interest in botany flourished, especially as he saw the Chinese level entire forests for firewood, and he was soon sending specimens back to Kew Gardens in London. Over the next twenty years he made a remarkable contribution to the understanding of Sino-Himalayan flora, sending back more than 15,000 dried specimens, including around 500 which represented new species.

Returning to Europe in 1900, he studied at the French National School of Forestry from two years. Then, in collaboration with H.J. Elwes, he wrote a seven-volume Trees of Great Britain and Ireland published in Edinburgh between 1906 and 1913. He helped establish School of Forestry at the University of Cambridge from 1907 and then was appointed to the Chair of Forestry at the Royal College of Science, Dublin, where he remained until he died. His widow presented his personal collection, comprising thousands of specimens, to form the Augustine Henry Forestry Herbarium at the Irish National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin.

Many plant species are named in his honour, including the popular Lilium henryi, Aquilegia henryi, Allium henryi, the Ladyslipper Orchid Cypripedium henryi, the tree Acer henryi and the shrubs Emmenopterys henryi, Rhododendron henryi and Rhododendron augustinii.

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