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JOHN GILBERT BAKER, F.R.8., F.L.S., Keeper of the Herbarium


Library in the Royal Gardens, Kew, is a familiar personage to all who have been employed at Kew during the past thirty years, partly because he has given annually a course of lectures on Organography and Systematic Botany, but chiefly from his frequenting the gardens so much for the purpose of studying the living collections, Mr. Baker being exceptional among botanists in the amount of attention he has given to cultivated plants. His lectures have always been popular, his emphatic, lucid style being easy to follow, whilst his kindly encouragement, pleasantness, and vein of humour tend to give the " tyro " a relish for botany which might otherwise be missing. No botanist of the present time has done so much for horticulture as Mr. Baker. His monographs of all sorts of garden genera published in the horticultural journals, his handbooks of Irideaj, Aruaryllideae, and Bromeliacea3,his lectures at Gardeners' Societies, Conferences, and Meetings have been most helpful in keeping garden nomenclature in botanical " trim," and in revealing the extent and richness of certain orders of plants. Mr. Baker's knowledge of plants of all kinds is astonishing. British plants he knows as few others know them. He has the names of all the Ferns, Irids, Amaryllids, and Bromeliads at his fingers' ends, the merest scrap of leaf or flower being often sufficient for him to identify the plant. A list of all Mr. Baker's contributions to botanical literature would fill several pages of our Journal. Botany is his hobby, his play as well as his profession, and the amount of work he gets through is prodigious. Even his holidays are spent in botanizing rambles in Yorkshire, the Lake country, or Switzerland. He was born in Guisborough, on the Cleveland Moors in Yorkshire, in January 1834. He began collecting and drying British plants when he was twelve years old, and this led in time to his becoming one of the first of amateur British botanists. He was for many years Curator and Secretary of the London Botanical Exchange Club. Until 1866 botany was merely a hobby with him, but in that year he was offered and accepted the position of First Assistant in the Herbarium at Kew. On the retirement of Professor Oliver in June 1800, Mr. Baker was appointed Keeper of the Herbarium and Library, an appointment which was hailed with great satisfaction by horticulturists as well as botanists. A photographic reproduction of a portrait of Mr. Baker at work, painted by Mr. J. W. Forster and exhibited in the Royal Academy, was published in the ' Gardeners' Chronicle,' 1893, xiii. p. 746, along with an appreciative notice of Mr. Baker's work by the editor, Dr. Masters. A list of Mr. Baker's principal works is given in ' Men of the Time.' Mr. Baker's son, Edmund, is a member of the staff of the Botanical Department of the British Museum. B2