Library of the Gray Herbarium




William Jameson was born in Edinburgh in 1796 and studied at Edinburgh's Royal College of Surgeons ca. 1814-1818. between 1818 and 1826, he made several voyages as a ship's surgeon, first to Baffin's Bay and later to South America. In 1826 he settled in Quitto, Ecuador, and in the following year he was appointed professor of chemistry and botany at the University there. He was made assayer to the mint in 1832 and director in 1861. In 1869 he went back to Edinburgh (by way of Argentina, to visit his sons), and returned to Ecuador in 1872. He died shortly thereafter.

Jameson carried out botanical investigations a Baffin's Bay in Ecuador, and in other South American countries; corresponded with Scottish and English botanists; sent plant specimens back to Great Britain (possibly elsewhere?); and published articles in a half dozen British and Scottish botanical journals. In 1864 he was appointed by the Ecuadorean government to write a flora of Ecuador. Volumes 1 and 2 of his Synopsis Plantarum Aequatoriensium (in Spanish) were published in 1865, but the work was not completed. [The British Museum has the text of the unpublished 3rd volume, p. 1-136; the U.S. Department of Agriculture Library has a Photostat of this.]

Jameson apparently also continued his studies of chemistry, as one would expect from his position as assayer to the mint. The biographical sources consulted did not mention any correspondence with chemists or any publications on chemistry, but the Gray Herbarium archives contain what appears to be a manuscript for a text on chemistry, probably never published.



Desmond, Ray. Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturists, 341.
Dictionary of National Biography (1921-222), X, 673
National Union Catalog


Scope and Content:

The William Jameson papers consist of about 220 letters to Jameson, ranging from 1827 to 1869, and an approximately equal volume of manuscript, presumably in Jameson's hand.

The letters fall into six main groups: letters from Isaac Anderson-Henry (43 letters, 1850-1867 with the bulk 1852-1856); letters from Jose Manuel Estrada (39 Letters, 1848-1869); letters from Teodoro Maldonado (28 letters, 1862-1864, bulk 1863); about 20 letters from members of his family (1848-1869); about 10 letters from the government of Ecuador (1835-1856); and a large group of mixed correspondence, approximately 80 letters from 60 correspondents. The letters are written in English and in Spanish.

The manuscript consists of loose sheets and small groups of sheets sewn together, is written in Spanish. Some sheets bear the title "Leccion" with a number, and topics discussed include chemical symbols and nomenclature, theory of atoms, chemical elements and compounds and their various properties, effects of combinations of chemicals, electricity and organic chemistry. A few sheets are dated, with dates running from 1861-1868. The manuscript does not appear to be in a particular order and there seems to be a certain amount of repetition. It would appear that the manuscript was intended as drafts for a text on chemistry.

There are also a few miscellaneous notes and receipts and a pamphlet given to Jameson.



How the Jameson papers arrived at the Gray Herbarium is a mystery. There is speculations that they were sent here with some of Jameson's herbarium specimens after his death, possibly by way of Kew. [There are still Jameson letters and plants at Kew, according to R. Desmond's Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturists.]


Container listing: (BOX S)

1. Letters from Isaac Anderson-Henry, 1850-1853 15 letters and 3 notes of letters received.

2. Letters from Isaac Anderson-Henry, 1854-1867, 28 letters.

3. Letters from Jose Manuel Estrada, 1848-1858 39 letters, 2 account sheets with Jameson (1848&1850), nota de empaque from Jameson to Jose Ramon Sucre on Estrada's stationary (1851).

4. Letters from Teodoro Maldonado, 1862-1864, 28 letters.

5. Letters from Jameson's family: 9 letters from Guillermo Jameson, son, 1861-1869; 1 letter from William, son, 1848; 3 letters from Tomas Jameson, son, n.d., 1862,1869; 1 letter from Juan Jameson, son, 1856; 1 letter from Hope Brown Paton, niece, 1859; copy of letters from Walter Bourne and I.G. Paton, 1860; 4 letters from Elizabeth Ann Paton, sister, 1866-1867; 1 letter from Rosa Rodriguez de Jameson, daughter- in-law, 1861

6. Letters from government of Ecuador, 1835-1856, 9 letters.

7. Mixed correspondence, arranged chronologically. 1827-1844

8. Mixed correspondence, arranged chronologically. 1847-1854

9. Mixed correspondence, arranged chronologically. 1856-1858

10. Mixed correspondence, arranged chronologically. 1860-1864

11. Mixed correspondence, arranged chronologically. 1865-1869

12 Miscellaneous receipts and notes

13-18. Chemical manuscript




Indexed under:
Anderson-Henry, Isaac
Estrada, Jose Manuel
Jameson, William
Maldonado, Teodoro


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