Robert Cross left the employment of Kew Gardens in 1859. His historic place in the first Chinchona mission was as a practical
gardener. He was recommended to the leader of the project Clements Markham ( by William Hooker, director of Kew Gardens )
to go out to Ecuador to assist a Yorkshireman, a distinguished plant collector called Richard Spruce. Spruce had responsibility
of arranging for the collection of the chinchona seeds and plants. Cross was to ensure the plants were tended and grew sufficently
well for them to be forwarded ( along with Cross himself in tow ) to India. Some of the background history to the first mission
is detailed below through the surviving public documents and written accounts.
WILLIAM CROSS IS AVAILABLE TO GIVE A TALK TO YOUR GROUP, SOCIETY, ORGANISATION ON THE LIFE AND WORK ON ROBERT CROSS.
CONTACT HIM e-mail
Clements ( later Sir Clements ) Markham was an Assistant in the India Office who led the Chinchona expeditions.
LETTER IN INDIA OFFICE LIBRARY
FROM CLELMENTS MARKHAM TO SIR GEORGE CLERK DATED 5 APRIL 1859
MARKHAM'S OFFER OF HIS SERVICES
Markham began by stating the importance of the venture....
Markham quotes an authority, Dr John Forbes Royle ( 1799-1858 ), who had first written about introducing chinchona to
India as far back as 1839.
...Among the vast variety of medical drugs says Dr Royle, in 1852, there is not one with probably the single exception
of opium which is more valuable to man than quinine yielding chinchona.
In 1853 he ( Royle ) says ...the successful introduction into India of the chinchona will be of great benefit not only
in that country but to the world in general..
Destruction of Forests
Markham draws attention to the destruction of the rain forests ... There is great fear that the supply ( of chinchona
) from the original sources may become so much diminished as to be beyond the reach of a mass of those who require the aid
Indian sub-continent's need for the drug - Markham's ace card was India .....
....To the Indian government a home supply of a drug
which already costs about £7000 a year would be advantageous in an economical point of view and invaluable in affording
means of employing a drug which is indispensable in the treatment of Indian fevers...
Why not ask Counsels and Agents to do the work?
Markham covered the alternative methods of obtaining collections :
.... It has been proved by fruitless experiments that it is useless to attempt to procure either the plants or the
seeds through the instamentability of HM Counsels or through agents having no interest in the success of their labours and
who probably hire other agents to deal with the actual Collectors...
Skills needed / including some deception..
..Considerable tact also is required in order to avoid exacting jealousy in the minds of Government officials..
And they must have their heart in it.
These facts are pointed out in order to show how fruitless it will be to trust the Agents and Counsels and how necessary
it is to employ some person whose heart is really in the business.
...I am well aquatinted with several of the forests in Peru and on the frontiers of Bolivia containing the chimbora tree.
I already know three of the more useful species by sight and should be able to acquire a thorough knowledge of the others
before leaving England.
Markham knowledge of languages and connections....
I know not only the Spanish language but also Quichica
or language spoken by the Indians of these districts and I am intimate with many of the public men and landowners on
the Eastern Slopes of the Cordillera. I trust I may add that I am most anxious to perform this service well, which I
feel to be of such great importance.
EQUADOR LAND COMPANY AND RICHARD SPRUCE
There was a bit of cloak and dagger involved in the arrangments -
LETTER IN INDIA OFFICE RECORDS
Revenue Judicial or Legislative Committee
PROPOSAL FOR USING EQUADOR LAND COMPANY
..no evidence that the most valuable species of the chinchona are to be found in the territory granted by the Equador
government and further they are of the opinion that a mission conducted by a commercial association whose principal object
must be to develop resources which will prove a permanent source of income is not the most likely means of attaining the object
to be aimed at, the full success of which would in effect render India independent as regards the supply of quinine of those
provinces of South America where the more valuable chinchona trees abound.
Dr Spruce was certainly poached!!!!
There is an interesting piece of correspondence concerning a complaint by the Equador Land Company who thought they had
already got Richard Spruce to work with them Markham explained that Spruce had only had an offer from the Equador Land Co
- no more than that- he had never accepted the offer!