Nathaniel Wallich



Nathaniel Wallich (b. 28 January 1786, Copenhagen, Denmark–d. 28 April 1854, London, England)1 was a widely respected Danish surgeon and naturalist.2 He played a key role in persuading the British government to establish Singapore’s first botanical and experimental garden, which was located on Government Hill (presently Fort Canning Hill).

Early life and career
Wallich was the son of Wolf Lazarus Wallich, a merchant as well as the leader of M. L. Nathanson’s Reform Party, which played an instrumental role in Jews being granted full Danish citizenship in 1814.3

In 1806, Wallich graduated from Denmark’s Academy of Surgeons. He then began his career with the Danish East India Company’s medical service in October 1807 at its main settlement in Serampore, West Bengal. The British East India Company had gained control of the settlement during a war in 1801, but it was returned to the Danes under the Peace of Amiens treaty in 1802. However, with renewed hostilities between Denmark and England, the settlement once again fell under British control in 1808 and Wallich was among those captured.4

During this time, Wallich was paroled and allowed to work for the British East India Company’s Bengal medical services. It was also during this time that botany became Wallich’s main passion. In 1809, he became assistant to William Roxburgh, superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden.5 Francis Buchanan succeeded Roxburgh in 1815, but ill health forced Buchanan to resign some six months later. Wallich then took on the position on a temporary basis that October.6 In August 1817, Wallich’s post as superintendent was made permanent, a position he held until his retirement in 1846.7

Contributions in Singapore
In 1822, Wallich fell ill during a trip to Singapore.8 To recuperate, he took up residence in a house called Botany Hall, which was situated on a hill that was later named Mount Wallich after him.9


During his five-month convalescence, Wallich spent several hours in the company of his good friend Thomas Stamford Raffles (Sir), who used this time to persuade Wallich to write a report to persuade the government to start a botanic and experimental garden in Singapore. Raffles had been toying with the idea of establishing a botanic garden since 1819.10

In November 1822, Wallich submitted a proposal to establish a botanical garden in Singapore.11 In a letter to Raffles dated November 1822, Wallich described Singapore as such: “It abounds in an endless variety of plants equally interesting to the botanist, the agriculturist and the gardener, with unrivalled facilities and opportunities of disseminating these treasures and exchanging them for others.12

When Raffles’s bungalow on Government Hill was constructed in 1819, an experimental garden was also created in the vicinity. The garden had some 125 nutmeg trees, 1,000 seeds of nutmeg and 450 clove plants planted.13 However, it was only in 1822 – with Wallich’s aid – that Raffles set about turning this garden into a 19-hectare botanical and experimental garden, which was the first of its kind in Singapore.14

Accomplishments in India
In 1826, Wallich became the first European known to gather specimens of teak while serving as an envoy to India’s governor-general, Lord Amherst, during the latter’s negotiations with Burmese rulers. Between 1835 and 1836, Wallich was in charge of three botanists who were sent to Assam to confirm reports of an indigenous tea plant that could be cultivated commercially.15

Wallich periodically provided the gardens and public institutions of Denmark and the British Empire with unique flora.16 In 1828, he brought to London a huge collection of dried plants that he and other botanists had gathered during their travels since the turn of the century. The collection of 8,000 to 10,000 species was one of the largest ever seen in Europe.17

From 1830 to 1832, Wallich completed and published the book Plantae Asiaticae Rariores, which was his most important work.18

Wallich received several plaudits in Denmark and England for his scientific contributions over the years. In 1818, he was made a Knight of Dannebrog by Denmark – the equivalent of knighthood in England. Later, he became a member of the Royal Danish Society of Sciences and the Royal Medical Association of Copenhagen. In England, he was a member of prestigious associations such as the Royal Asiatic Society, Linnean Society and Royal Society. He was vice president of the Linnean Society in 1849, and vice-president of the Royal Society from 1852 to 1853.19

Family
Wallich married his first wife, Julia Maria Hals, in Serampore in 1812. However, she died soon thereafter. He married his second wife, Sophia Collins, in 1815.20

Wallich had three sons, George, David and Leonard, and four daughters. Of all his children, he was particularly close to his eldest daughter, Hannah Sarah.21



Author

Christopher Ong



References
1.
Davidson, J. (Ed.). (1993). Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of days. Singapore: Antiques of the Orient, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 SIR-[HIS]); Bradlow, E. (1998). Nathaniel Wallich: A man for all seasons. Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library, 52(3), 96–108. Retrieved from EBSCOhost via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
2. Tinsley, B. (1983). Singapore green: A history and guide to the Botanic Gardens. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 580.7445957 TIN)
3.
Bradlow, E. (1998). Nathaniel Wallich: A man for all seasons. Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library, 52(3), 96–108. Retrieved from EBSCOhost via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
4. Bradlow, E. (1998). Nathaniel Wallich: A man for all seasons. Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library, 52(3), 96–108. Retrieved from EBSCOhost via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Davidson, J. (Ed.). (1993). Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of days. Singapore: Antiques of the Orient, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 SIR-[HIS])
5.
Bradlow, E. (1998). Nathaniel Wallich: A man for all seasons. Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library, 52(3), 96–108. Retrieved from EBSCOhost via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
6. Arnold, D. (2008). Plant capitalism and company science: The Indian career of Nathaniel Wallich. Modern Asian Studies, 42(5), 899–928, p. 900. (Call no.: R 950 MAS)
7.
Bradlow, E. (1998). Nathaniel Wallich: A man for all seasons. Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library, 52(3), 96–108. Retrieved from EBSCOhost via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Davidson, J. (Ed.). (1993). Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of days. Singapore: Antiques of the Orient, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 SIR-[HIS])
8.
Tinsley, B. (1983). Singapore green: A history and guide to the Botanic Gardens. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 580.7445957 TIN)
9.
Tinsley, B. (2009). Gardens of perpetual summer: The Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore: National Parks Board, p. 24. (Call no. RSING 580.735957 TIN)
10.
Tinsley, B. (1989). Visions of delight: The Singapore Botanic Gardens through the ages. Singapore: The Gardens, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 580.74459597 TIN); Tinsley, B. (1983). Singapore green: A history and guide to the Botanic Gardens. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 580.7445957 TIN); Tinsley, B. (2009). Gardens of perpetual summer: The Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore: National Parks Board, p. 24. (Call no. RSING 580.735957 TIN)
11.
Davidson, J. (Ed.). (1993). Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of days. Singapore: Antiques of the Orient, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 SIR-[HIS])
12.
Tinsley, B. (1983). Singapore green: A history and guide to the Botanic Gardens. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 580.7445957 TIN)
13.
Tinsley, B. (1983). Singapore green: A history and guide to the Botanic Gardens. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 580.7445957 TIN); Tinsley, B. (1989). Visions of delight: The Singapore Botanic Gardens through the ages. Singapore: The Gardens, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 580.74459597 TIN); Singapore Botanic Gardens. (2013). 1822: Raffles and his vision of a “Botanical and Experimental Garden”. Retrieved 2017, January 31 from Singapore Botanic Gardens website: https://www.sbg.org.sg/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=677&Itemid=247
14.
Tinsley, B. (1989). Visions of delight: The Singapore Botanic Gardens through the ages. Singapore: The Gardens, p. 16. (Call no.: RSING 580.74459597 TIN)
15.
Bradlow, E. (1998). Nathaniel Wallich: A man for all seasons. Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library, 52(3), 96–108. Retrieved from EBSCOhost via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
16. Bradlow, E. (1998). Nathaniel Wallich: A man for all seasons. Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library, 52(3), 96–108. Retrieved from EBSCOhost via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

17. Arnold, D. (2008). Plant capitalism and company science: The Indian career of Nathaniel Wallich. Modern Asian Studies, 42(5), 899–928, p. 917. (Call no.: R 950 MAS)
18.
Bradlow, E. (1998). Nathaniel Wallich: A man for all seasons. Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library, 52(3), 96–108. Retrieved from EBSCOhost via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
19. Bradlow, E. (1998). Nathaniel Wallich: A man for all seasons. Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library, 52(3), 96–108. Retrieved from EBSCOhost via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

20. Arnold, D. (2008). Plant capitalism and company science: The Indian career of Nathaniel Wallich. Modern Asian Studies, 42(5), 899–928, p. 906. (Call no.: R 950 MAS)
21.
Bradlow, E. (1998). Nathaniel Wallich: A man for all seasons. Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library, 52(3), 96–108. Retrieved from EBSCOhost via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/



Further resources
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didiet Millet in association with the National Heritage Board.

(Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])

Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 1). Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 65, 487.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])

Sanson, V. (1992). Gardens and parks of Singapore. Singapore; New York: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 712.5095957 SAN)

Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


 

Subject
Botanic Gardens (Singapore)
Personalities
Wallich, N. (Nathaniel), 1786-1854
Personalities>>Biographies
Science and technology>>Botany>>Horticulture