Henry Nicholas Ridley



Henry Nicholas Ridley (CMG) (FRS) (b. 10 December 1855, West Harling, Norfolk, England1–d. 24 October 1956, Kew, Surrey, England2) is the first director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens from 1888 to 1911.3 Ridley is also known as the “father of the rubber industry”,4 and inventor of the “herring-bone” rubber-tapping technique to tap the rubber trees for latex at regular intervals without harming them.5 Ridley retired from Singapore in 1911 and spent the rest of his life back in England.6 He died on 24 October 1956 just a few months before his 101st birthday.7

Early life
Ridley was born at West Harling, Norfolk, England, on 10 December 1855 to Reverend Oliver Matthew Ridley and Louisa Pole (Stuart).8 He had an intense interest in nature, and decided while still at school that his life’s work would be dedicated to the study of natural history in the tropics.9

Education
Ridley was educated at Haileybury School and he was an active member of the school’s natural history society.10 At Exeter College, Oxford, he obtained second-class honours in Science in 1877, and was also awarded the Burdett-Coutts Geological Scholarship.11

Early work: Britain
Upon graduation, he found a job at the Botany Department of the British Museum in 1880.12 There he studied a series of collections of specimens that were sent to the Museum from the tropics, prepared reports and published papers on them, and during the process he acquired an extensive knowledge of tropical plants.13 At the same time, he also wrote papers on zoological subjects.14 In 1887, he received a sponsorship by the Royal Society and went on an expedition to the island of Fernando de Noronha (off the coast of Brazil), and reported on the botany, zoology and geology of the island.15 He worked with the British Museum until 1888, when at the age of 33, he was appointed as the first director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.16

Singapore
Ridley arrived in Singapore in 1888.17 During his 23 years of service, he made expeditions to all parts of the Malay Peninsular and gave botany lectures between 1905 and 1910 at the King Edward VII School of Medicine.18 He diligently explored the remote areas of Malay Peninsula, collected and described specimens and increased the Herbarium and living collections of the Botanic Gardens by an estimated 50,000 specimens.19

Father of the rubber industry in Malaya
The first rubber trees that had been planted 11 years ago in 187720 had matured by the time Ridley arrived.21 The 12 rubber trees that were planted at the Botanic Gardens were part of the batch of 22 that arrived from Sri Lanka, and the remaining ten were sent to Perak, Malaya.22

Ridley spent time researching on the commercial possibilities of the rubber trees.23 He refined the latex extraction method from an existing “herring-bone” method which already existed in Ceylon.24 This method allows latex to be harvested from the rubber trees without damaging them and economically producing latex for over 20 years without the need for replant.25 It was an epoch-making innovation in the history of the rubber industry.26 In addition he also developed good agricultural practices that could shorten the immature period of the tree from 10 to five years.27

He then tirelessly promoted rubber to all planters, published articles on rubber in Agricultural Bulletin of the Straits & F.M.S., presented displays on rubber at all horticultural shows, and even carried rubber seeds in his pockets, ever ready to give them out to people who are willing to try.28 His enthusiasm was not shared by others and he was nicknamed “Mad Ridley”,29 or “Rubber Ridley”.30

All these changed by 1906 when there was a massive demand for rubber to manufacture motor tyres, cycle tyres and rubber to insulate electric wires for lighting, and in 1910, it was rubber boom on all the stock exchanges of the world.31

Ridley had by then laid the foundation of the rubber industry in Malaya, with Singapore among the first to establish rubber plantations when in 1898, Tan Chay Yan and his partners formed the Sembawang Rubber Plantation and the Tampines Para and Coconut Plantation.32

Retirement
Ridley retired and left Singapore in February 1912.33 During his 43 years of retirement, he spent most of his time writing the five-volume The flora of the Malay Peninsula which was to become the foundation for botanical studies in Malaya, and worked on his diaries and autobiography.34

At age 83, he married for the first time, to Lily Eliza Doran.35 He attended meetings of the Linnean Society regularly up until he was over 90 years old, and gave his comments on a variety of subjects.36 On the celebration of his 100th birthday, he was quoted as saying: “It is a great delight for me to have lived to see Malaya so prosperous, and the gardens the best tropical gardens in the world”.37

Achievements
Ridley was made a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1881, and of the Royal Society (F.R.S.) in 1907.38 He was conferred the Companion, of the Most Distinguished, Order of St Michael and St George (C.M.G.), in 1911.39 Following this, he received an honorary gold medal from the Rubber Growers’ Association in 1914.40 A Frank N, Meyer medal for distinguished service in plant introduction, especially in recognition for his important role in establishing rubber plantations in Malaya, was presented to Ridley in 1928.41 He was awarded the Linnean Society of London Gold Medal in 1950,42 and in 1955, the Institution of the Rubber Industry gave him its highest award, the Colwyn Medal.43

Publications
Ridley’s scientific papers were published mainly in the Journal of the Straits Branch, Royal Asiatic Society, as well as the Journal and Transactions of the Linnean Society of London.44 He also contributed articles on useful plants in the Agricultural Bulletin of the Straits & F.M.S., which he produced as a monthly journal from 1901 to 1911.45 In the special issue of the Gardens’ bulletin, Straits Settlements, published in celebration of his 80th birthday, it was estimated that he had published over 500 books, papers and notes, which was close to 10,000 printed pages.46

Some of his noted publications include the following:
1912: Spices47
1922–1925: The flora of the Malay Peninsula (Volumes 1 to 5)48
1930: The dispersal of plants throughout the world49

Ridley’s centenary
On his 100th birthday in 1955, Ridley received congratulatory notes from the Queen,50 the Royal Society, the Government of Singapore (through a personal visit from the Chief Minister) and other official bodies, as well as from relatives and old friends.51 Among the many celebratory activities planned, the Singapore Botanic Gardens held an exhibition, Ridleyana, featuring his books and plants named by and after him, which were displayed from 10 to 13 December. The gardens were floodlit from 10 to 17 December to mark his 100th birthday, and night concert performances were also held there.52 An hourlong programme broadcasted by the Radio Malaya on the eve of his birthday, featured recordings of Malaya’s prominent personalities’ greetings to Ridley, and also the recorded voice of Ridley speaking from his home at Kew.53 The Federation of Malaya’s Postal Department also paid tribute to Ridley by stamping on every letter posted from Singapore and the Federation a special greeting to commemorate the occasion: Hundredth Birthday, Henry Ridley, Rubber Pioneer.54

Death
Henry Nicholas Ridley died on 24 October 1956, almost 101 years of age, at his home at Kew, London.55



References
1. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 104.
2. Ridley - he made millions for Malaya - is dead. (1996, October 26). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Tinsley, B. (2009). Gardens of perpetual summer: The Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore: National Parks Board, Singapore Botanic Gardens, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 580.735957 TIN)
4. Tinsley, B. (2009). Gardens of perpetual summer: The Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore: National Parks Board, Singapore Botanic Gardens, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 580.735957 TIN)
5. A garden’s roots. (1982, July 3). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Purseglove, J. W. (1955). The Ridley centenary, 10th December, 1955. Singapore: Printed at the Govt. Print. Off., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 580.924 SIN)
7. Ridley - he made millions for Malaya - is dead. (1996, October 26). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 104.
9. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 104.
10. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 104.
11. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 104.
12. Purseglove, J. W. (1955). The Ridley centenary, 10th December, 1955. Singapore: Printed at the Govt. Print. Off., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 580.924 SIN)
13. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 104.
14. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 104.
15. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 104.
16. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 104.
17. Tinsley, B. (2009). Gardens of perpetual summer: The Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore: National Parks Board, Singapore Botanic Gardens, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 580.735957 TIN)
18. Purseglove, J. W. (1955). The Ridley centenary, 10th December, 1955. Singapore: Printed at the Govt. Print. Off., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 580.924 SIN)
19. Tinsley, B. (2009). Gardens of perpetual summer: The Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore: National Parks Board, Singapore Botanic Gardens, pp. 43, 46. (Call no.: RSING 580.735957 TIN)
20. Tan, P. W. C., Tan, A. L., & Lau, L. (2014). Singapore rubber trade: An economic heritage. Singapore: Suntree Media Pte Ltd., p. 29. (Call no.: RSING 338.476782095957 TAN)
21. Tan, P. W. C., Tan, A. L., & Lau, L. (2014). Singapore rubber trade: An economic heritage. Singapore: Suntree Media Pte Ltd., p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 338.476782095957 TAN)
22. Tan, P. W. C., Tan, A. L., & Lau, L. (2014). Singapore rubber trade: An economic heritage. Singapore: Suntree Media Pte Ltd., p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 338.476782095957 TAN)
23. Tinsley, B. (2009). Gardens of perpetual summer: The Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore: National Parks Board, Singapore Botanic Gardens, p. 41. (Call no.: RSING 580.735957 TIN)
24. Tinsley, B. (2009). Gardens of perpetual summer: The Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore: National Parks Board, Singapore Botanic Gardens, p. 42. (Call no.: RSING 580.735957 TIN)
25. Tan, P. W. C., Tan, A. L., & Lau, L. (2014). Singapore rubber trade: An economic heritage. Singapore: Suntree Media Pte Ltd., p. 29. (Call no.: RSING 338.476782095957 TAN)
26. Ridley found way to tap rubber and gave Malaya its wealth. (1953, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Tan, P. W. C., Tan, A. L., & Lau, L. (2014). Singapore rubber trade: An economic heritage. Singapore: Suntree Media Pte Ltd., p. 29. (Call no.: RSING 338.476782095957 TAN)
28. Tan, P. W. C., Tan, A. L., & Lau, L. (2014). Singapore rubber trade: An economic heritage. Singapore: Suntree Media Pte Ltd., p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 338.476782095957 TAN); Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 106.
29. Tribute to Ridley. (1955, October 14). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Boxall, R. (1950, May 4). He said rubber could be grown in Malaya. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Edinger, G. (1955, December 10). Pioneer of rubber is 100 today. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Tan, P. W. C., Tan, A. L., and Lau, L. (2014). Singapore rubber trade: an economic heritage. Singapore : Suntree Media Pte Ltd., p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 338.476782095957 TAN)
33. Purseglove, J. W. (1955). The Ridley centenary, 10th December, 1955. Singapore: Printed at the Govt. Print. Off., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 580.924 SIN)
34. Purseglove, J. W. (1955). The Ridley centenary, 10th December, 1955. Singapore: Printed at the Govt. Print. Off., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 580.924 SIN)
35. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 108.
36. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 108-109.
37. A garden’s roots. (1982, July 3). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Purseglove, J. W. (1955). The Ridley centenary, 10th December, 1955. Singapore: Printed at the Govt. Print. Off., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 580.924 SIN)
39. Coronation honours. (1911, September 16). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Social and personal. (1914, July 28). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. The rubber pioneer. (1928, April 20). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Founder Of rubber industry honoured. (1950, June 2). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. Henry Ridley. (1956, October 26). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 106.
45. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 106.
46. Henderson, R., & Van Steenis, C. G. G. J. (1935). Bibliography of the works of Mr. H. N. Ridley, from 1872 to 1935. The Gardens' Bulletin, Straits Settlements, 9(1), 2. Retrieved from Singapore Botanic Gardens website: https://www.sbg.org.sg/index.php?option=com_xgardenbulletin&Itemid=118
47. Tinsley, B. (2009). Gardens of perpetual summer: The Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore: National Parks Board, Singapore Botanic Gardens, p. 46. (Call no.: RSING 580.735957 TIN)
48. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 107.
49. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 107.
50. The Queen to Mr. Ridley. (1955, December 11). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
51. Holttum, R. E. (1960, May). Henry Nicholas Ridley, C.M.G., M.A., F.R.S. [Microfilm no.: NL 7331]Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 33(1), 109.
52. Colony plans birthday honour. (1955, November 9). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
53. Tribute to Ridley on the air. (1955, December 9). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
54. Birthday slogan on mail. (1955, December 7). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
55. Ridley - he made millions for Malaya - is dead. (1956, October 26). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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
Science and technology>>Botany>>Horticulture
Botanic Gardens (Singapore)
Botanical garden directors--Singapore
Science and technology>>Manufacturing>>Rubber and latex
Nature
Personalities
Personalities>>Biographies>>Colonial Administrators
Rubber industry and trade--Malaysia--Malaya--History
Ridley, Henry Nicholas, 1855-
Colonial administrators
Nature and Environment