Plant lists from 'olde' Madras (1698-1703)

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Samuel Browne, a surgeon attached to the Military Hospital at Fort St George, Madras (1688-18), collected plants from villages around Madras (c. 30 km radius) and once from Tirupati (120 km). The collected plants were sent to the Royal Society of London, where James Petiver - an apothecary, botanist, entomologist, natural historian - determined and later published them in the Philosophical Transactions (of the Royal Society of London) between 1698 and 1703. Presently, the materials sent by Browne are stored at the Natural History Museum, London, under Sloane's collections, because Hans Sloane acquired Petiver's plant collections, which include Browne's dispatches from Madras sent in 1696. By the present standards, the descriptions of plants provided by Petiver are awkward and complex, because of the then prevalent system of polynomial system of nomenclature using Latin descriptors, mixed with Indian vernacular (Tamil) names as supplied by Browne in his notes. Nonetheless, this set of papers is a valuable source of information for understanding the nature and diversity of the flora in the dry, semi-arid segments of the present Tamil Nadu and adjoining segments of Andhra Pradesh of the 1700s. The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the forgotten and ignored pages of the botanical history of Madras and clarify the basic details available in these papers, so that they could be explored extensively by competent botanists of the Coromandel to bring out the science of plants they include.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2336-2341
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Science
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 25 Dec 2018


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