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verticalrule.jpg - 1514 Bytes The scrapbook described here is one of two botanical scrapbooks donated to the Department of Botany at the University of Toronto. Both scrapbooks were prepared by Adam White, however, only one was completed.

The completed one was, as Polunin (1936) stated compiled in the 1850s by one Adam White Esq., F.L.S. &c., British Museum, from specimens given him by their collectors - not for him to identify but to keep for his own edification, since he seems to have been a mere entomologist with an eye for flowers.

The uncompleted scrapbook, which is presented here, was described by Boivin (1980) as containing at the beginning a series of European specimens with minimum data and at the end a series of J.D. Hooker collections from the Falklands, Cape Horn, Kerguelen, and other Southern localities from his collecting during the Antarctic Voyage of the Erebus and Terror of 1839-43

Adam White (1817-1879) was born in Edinburgh on 29 April 1817, where he received his secondary school education. As a child, he was acquainted with John Edward Gray, who was the Keeper of Zoology in the British Museum. At the age of eighteen, White settled into a post in the Department of Zoology in the British Museum, that he held from 1835 to 1863.

Throughout the time he spent in the museum, White was particularly interested in entomology. He authored more than 60 papers between 1839 and 1861, primarily on the subjects of insects and crustacea. These included the 'List of Crustacea in the British Museum' in 1847, 'A Popular History of Mammalia' in 1850, and the 'Tabular View of the Orders and Leading Families of Insects' in 1857.

White also assisted in the curation of the specimens brought back by many of the 19th century British expeditions, including the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle to Australia. His written works also include notes and descriptions of the specimens collected on such expeditions. Many of the participants in these expeditions also have him specimens for his scrapbooks, including those collected during the expeditions of H.M. Ships Lady Franklin, Sophia, and Assistance to the Arctic, and H.M. Ships Erebus and Terror to the Antarctic.

During his career at the British Museum, White held many memberships as well. He was a Member of the Entomological Society of London from 1839 to 1863, as well as a Fellow of the Linnean Society from 1846 to 1855. He also thought to apply for a position as Professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh. To this end he collected testimonials, including one from Charles Darwin, who wrote of his "great zeal for every branch of Natural History". Unfortunately, the position was filled by someone else.

In his personal life, White was a devout Christian, and was troubled by Darwin's theory of evolution. In 1863, he retired from his 28-year career at the British Museum, as a result of depression stemming from the loss of his wife. Yet, even when confined to an asylum in Scotland, he contributed to and edited a journal, in which the contents were provided to him by fellow patients.

Sources of information on Adam White and his scrapbook consulted in preparing this page include:

Anonymous, 1879. Botanical News. Journal of Botany p. 96

Boivin, (1980). Survey of Canadian herbaria. Provancherid 10.

Desmond, R., 1977. Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturists. Taylor & Francis Ltd., London. [p. 654]

Polunin, N. (1936). A botanical scrapbook. Rhodora 38(456):409-413.

Woodward, B.B., 1900. White, Adam in Dictionary of National Biography Vol. 61 (S. Lee, ed.), Smith, Elder & Co., London. [p.31]


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This site is the product of a Research Opportunity Program 299Y Project carried out by T.Kovinthan and M.Tse in the Department of Botany of the University of Toronto during the 2001-2002 academic year. The work was done in the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Biology of the Royal Ontario Museum under the supervision of T.A. Dickinson, curator of the ROM Green Plant Herbarium (TRT). The Adam White scrapbooks are part of the Green Plant Herbarium's collection of Victorian and later scrapbook herbaria.

Text© T.Kovinthan, M.Tse, Images© 2001 Royal Ontario Museum
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