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Francis Boott (1792-1863)



Francis Boott was born in Boston in 1792, son of Kirk Boott, one of the founders of Lowell, Mass. and brother of Kirk Boott Jr., one of the early manufacturers at Lowell. He entered Harvard College in 1806, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1810. A year later, at the age of 19, he traveled to England, with the purpose of entering mercantile life (Gray 288). For unknown reasons these plans never came to fruition, and Boott spent the next three years in Derby, "where he formed both the scientific and social attachments which dertermined the aims...of his whole after life" (Gray 289). It is possible that Boott became interested in botany through his acquaintance with Mrs. Hardcastle (whose daughter Boott would later marry) who was "something of a botanist" (Gray 288). Upon returning to Boston in 1814 Boott began collecting New England plants, and in 1816 was part of a group that made botanical explorations of New England mountains including: Wachusett Mountain, Mt. Monadnock, Ascutney Mountain, and Mt. Washington. This party also included Dr. Jacob Bigelow, Francis C. Gray, Judge Shaw and Nathaniel Tucker.

In 1820 Boott returned to England permanently and took up the study of medicine, first in London under Dr. Armstrong and then in Edinburgh, where he received the degree of M.D. in 1824. He practiced medicine in London for a number of years and also lectured on botany and carried out his own scientific studies. The death of his friend and mentor Dr. Armstrong left Boott with the "duties of biographer and expositor" (Gray 289). His Memoir of the Life and Medical Opinions of John Armstrong, M.D. was published in 1833-1834. He became involved in the study of the genus Carex and published Illustrations of the Genus Carex in three volumes, from 1858-1862. The fourth volume of this work was published by his family after his death in 1863.


Anonymous. "Francis Boott, M.D." Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 6: 305-308, 1865.
Gray, A. "Francis Boott, M.D." American Journal of Science and Arts, series II. 37: 288-292, 1864.

Scope and Content:

The Boott papers consist of a copy by Boott of descriptions of Vaccinium in a manuscript in the British Museum, with marginal annotations by Boott. The manuscript consists of two sheets (8 pages), is dated Sept. 25, 1843, and is directed to Asa Gray. Boott carried on a substantial correspondence with Asa Gray (see Historic Letters file), and the manuscript described here was probably part of the correspondence.


The Boott manuscript probably accumulated with Asa Gray's papers at the Gray Herbarium.


See Also:

Historic Letter Collection
Semi-Historic Letter Collection
Gray Archives Photograph Collection: #0038, #1024, #1129
Jane Gray Autograph Collection


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Last Updated June 2002
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