Botanist / Physician
Browne worked as a Medical doctor at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London. This adventurer had some of his work published in the Latin, English and Irish language.
Patrick Browne was born at Woodstock, near Ballindine, Co. Mayo in 1720 the fourth son of Edward Browne. No Portrait exists of Patrick Browne; a word – picture reported that “The Doctor is a tall comely man, of good address and gentle manners, naturally cheerful, very temperate and in general health.” (R. O. 1796) During 1737 he was sent to stay with relatives aged sixteen years in Antigua but due to ill–health he was forced to return to Europe. With his parents approval he “applied himself to the study of physic and was partial to the science of Botany.” (R. O. 1793) He studied medicine at Paris plus at the University of Reims where he obtained a Degree on 1st December 1742. He continued to study at the University of Leiden until February 21st 1743. He was married between 1757 and 1765. [i]
He worked as Physician at St. Thomas’s Hospital, London for two years prior to travelling to West Indies. Brown collected samples of the flora and fauna on the islands prior to working as a physician at Kingston in Jamaica by 1746. He used his botanical knowledge of several plants for use in his medical treatments. He visited the Caribbean, Barbados, Montserrat, Antigua also St. Kitts in the West- Indies. He resided at Christiansted St Croix; during 1763 he acquired a 150 – acre sugar plantation near Mount Eagle. [ii]
Browne published a map of Jamaica in London during 1755. In the following year his major work was published the “Civil and Natural History of Jamaica” 1756 (Printed for and sold by T. Osborne & J. Shipton in Gray’s Inn) it contained 104 new names for genera, it was illustrated by the Botanic Artist George Dionysius Ehret. [iii] On page 309 of this tome he recorded that “The Forbidden Fruit or smaller shaddock tree can be cultivated in most parts of the country; actually on the South side, where that are observed to thrive best. Also that they are very successfully administered and one of the most effectual medicines that can be used.” [iv] With regard to one of the genera, Sarcomphalus, “a tall tree with blackish – brown hard wood,” Browne wrote that the flowers were “quite accurately described, selected, from a fresh specimen at foot of the tree.” The plant he named “Comina” (pg 205) he “described the characters exactly as I have observed them in fresh specimens, adding that the Floral parts were “very small, and not easily observed, even by the help of glasses.” [v]
He retired from his medical practice in 1764 by September 7th 1770 when he was living in Dublin. (From Letter to Linnaeus page 9.) He returned to Mayo where his publication “Catalogues of the Birds and Fishes of Ireland” appeared in Exshaw’s Magazine in 1788. His “Fasciculus Plantarum Hiberniae” was published in Latin, English and Irish. Patrick Browne wrote to His Royal Highness, George William Frederick, the Prince of Wales re the matter of “The Civil and Natural State of a Colony In 1793 R.O. reported that Browne was a competent astronomer, plus mathematician. Brown died at Rushbrook Co. Mayo on 29th August 1790 aged seventy. He is buried in Clonboyne, Claremorris. [vi]
He corresponded with Carl Linnaeus who wrote of Browne; “You ought to be honoured with a Golden Statue” also that Brown’s book impressed him; he told Peter Collinson that “No author did I ever quit more instructed.” Botanist Nicolaus Joseph von Jacquin (1727 – 1817) honoured Browne by coining the generic name Browne (Fabaceae). On the 1st December 1795 Aylmer Bourke Lambert (1761 – 1842) read an encomrum of Browne to the recently established Linnean Society. During 1792 R.O.’s lengthy biographical notice of Browne was published in “Anthologia Hibernaia.” A number of other tropical plant species bears his name as a specific epithet. (Nelson 1995) [vii] Browne was mentioned in several books; The Journal of botanical history (Vols 3) by Huntia may be of interest; contents; (1) E. Charles Nelson, “Patrick Browne (ca 1720 – 1790), Irish physician, historian and Caribbean botanist; A brief biography with an account of his lost medical dissertations.” “A brief account of the Sulpher of Sulphurarium of Monserrat, West Indies” is included by Dr. Richard Howards Harvard University in “Monserrat, West Indies; A Chronological History (Monserrat National Trust 1899.) [viii] P. H. Oswald and E. Charles Nelson, “Jamaican plant genera named by Patrick Brown (ca 1720 – 1790); A checklist with an attempt at an etymology,” [ix] the “History of Jamaica” by William James Gardner, [x] the “Dictionary of British and Irish Taxidermy” by William Swainson [xi]