Spruce, Richard (1817-1893)
Borrer, William J. (1781-1862) (co-collector)
Gibson, Samuel (1790-1849) (correspondent)
Hanbury, Daniel (1825-1875) (correspondent)
Hooker, William Jackson (1785-1865) (correspondent)
Markham, Clements Robert (1830-1916) (correspondent)
Martius, Carl Friedrich Philipp van (1794-1868) (correspondent)
Miers, John (1789-1879) (correspondent)
Munby, Giles (1812-1876) (correspondent)
Southby, Anthony (c. 1800-1883) (co-collector)
Taylor, Thomas (1775-1848) (correspondent)
Like his father Spruce became a tutor at Haxby in 1839 and the following year moved to York where he worked as an assistant master at York Collegiate, teaching and studying mathematics. It was then that his attention truly turned to the mosses and liverworts and in his free time he explored the North York Moors, Whitby, Teesdale and Derbyshire, even making an expedition to the west of Ireland to enrich his herbarium.
Spruce's first publication in 1844 was "Mosses of Eskdale", a region of Yorkshire, and this year he abandoned the teaching profession to travel further afield. Leaving for the Pyrenees in 1855 Spruce financed the expedition by selling sets of flowering plant specimens and returned having augmented the bryophyte species list for the area from 169 to 478. On his return in 1849 he published "Musci and Hepaticae of the Pyrenees" and moved to London to devote himself to the study of exotic plants at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the British Museum. Here he met many important figures in British botany and, his name secured in such circles, he was invited by William Hooker to take part in a South American expedition. This he accepted despite a history of intestinal disorders, about which he expressed considerable concern.
At the age of 31 Spruce set sail for Parà and advanced up the Amazon, exploring and mapping its little known affluents. He also mapped the Rio Negro, the Cassiquiari and the Orinoco using cross-bearings and astronomy, a field which he had also been interested in since his youth. Eventually the team reached the Andes near Quito and from there spent two years on the coast of Ecuador, followed by a further six months on the Peruvian coast. The journey certainly took its toll on Spruce and by 1860 he suffered from paralysis of the lower back and legs and found himself unable to sit or walk without considerable pain. To add to this he suffered a great misfortune in Guayaquil where some 6,000 dollars were stolen from him; were he not to have sold all of his most valuable and precious books he would have been left destitute. Finally unable to work in Peru Spruce decided to return to England where he had W. Mitten assess his specimens at Hurstpierpoint, a vast amount of which the renowned bryologist used in his Musci Austro-Americani.
In 1867 he settled in Welburn where he remained for nine years but for a long time was unable to write without suffering intestinal bleeding. Eventually he managed to publish Palmae Amazonicae and started on his monumental Hepaticae Amazonicae et Andinae(1884) which he finished at Coneysthorpe, his residence for the final 17 years of his life. It is said that Spruce suffered an apoplectic seizure at the completion of this epic publication, which contained the description of 700 new species, two thirds of which were new to science. After some discussion it was decided that he should be awarded a pension for his contributions which he received in the form of fifty pounds a year from both the British and Indian governments. Spruce's final publication was a posthumous one, an account of his travels entitled Notes of a Botanist on Amazon and Andes which was edited by Alfred Russel Wallace, for the pair met in South America and had travelled together for some time. An extremely methodical but humorous man, Spruce was never married and died from an attack of influenza, from which his already weakened body could not recover.
M. Pearson, 2004, Richard Spruce: Naturalist and Explorer
M.R.D. Seaward, 1996, Richard Spruce (1817-1893): botanist and explorer
G. Stabler, 1894, "Obituary notice of Richard Spruce, PhD.", Transactions and Proceedings of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, 20: 99-109
M. Lawley, "Richard Spruce (1817-1893)", The British Bryological Society:
http://rbgweb2.rbge.org.uk/bbs/Learning/Bryohistory/Bygone%20Bryologists/RICHARD%20SPRUCE.pdf, accessed August 2010
About Richard Spruce, Research and Curation, The Natural History Museum:
http://www.nhm.ac.uk/jdsml/research-curation/research/projects/spruce/INTRODUCTION/introduction_spruce.dsml, accessed August 2010.
We're sorry. You don't appear to have permission to access the item.
Full access to these resources typically requires affiliation with a partnering organization. (For example, researchers are often granted access through their affiliation with a university library.)
If you believe you should be able to access this content, there are several actions you could take:
- If you have an institutional affiliation that provides you access, try logging in via your institution
- If you have a username and password, please log in.
- If you would like to learn more about access options or believe you received this message in error, please contact us.