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Robert McKenzie Cross: Botanical Explorer, Kew Gardens

Clements Markham, Richard Spruce and Henry Wickham

Home | Forgotten Legend : Tribute to Robert Cross- Sample | Further Reading : Some Books, Journals and Web Sites | Early Life in Kilmaronock Loch Lomondside 1830s and 1840s | While Robert entered Kew Gardens, London 1850s his siblings flew the nest too! | Chronology : The Years Robert Cross spent at Home and Abroad | Chinchona Missions : First Trip to South America 1859 | Robert Cross's Report on his travel to South America in 1860 | Spruce's Journal First Chinchona Mission | Chinchona : Later Trips to South America | Rubber Trees : Mission to South America 1876 | Para Rubber Images | Clements Markham, Richard Spruce and Henry Wickham | Achievements of Robert Cross | Publications of Robert M Cross | Last Years at West Cottage Torrance of Campsie | Last Will and Testament of Robert McKenzie Cross

All men are equal ..but some are more equal than others....

Sir Clements Robert Markham : 1830-1916. British geographer and traveller. On resigning from the Navy in 1852, Markham travelled on the Eastern slopes of the Andes. Then he joined the Civil Service and in this connection, introduced chinchona and rubber to India and the Far East. In 1875 he went on an arctic expedition to Greenland. He also held key posts in the Hakluyt and Royal Geograhical Societies from which he lent decisive support for Britain's expedition to Antarctica in 1901.

Some of Markham's Books on Chinchona e.g. Peruvian Bark can still be obtained on the Internet: -

MARKHAM, Clements R.; Peruvian Bark; A Popular Account of the Introduction of Chinchona Cultivation Into British India, 1860 - 1880. London, John Murray, 1880, First edition, 8vo [19 x 13 cm]; xxiii, 550, 20 (ads) pp, 3 fldg maps (nicely backed in linen), 3 illus including full-page, bibliog, index, contemporary half morocco with raised bands and gilt decorations and lettering on spine, gilt emblem of Australian library on front cover, marbled edges & endpapers, slight foxing on few leaves but very good solid copy in attractive binding.

Markham, a Victorian geographer and explorer, conceived the notion of a cheap supply of quinine for the treatment of malaria for use in India. He organized several teams to go to Peru to collect the most promising varieties of cinchona, one of which he lead himself. After suffering great hardship in the jungle he managed to obtain some 500 seedlings, but they all died en route to India. Another of his teams was lead by Richard Spruce who did obtain seedlings and seeds, although they later proved to be of a variety that did not produce the largest amount of quinine. The work is an interesting adventure and description of events and is a valuable part of the story of the development of a cure for malaria, which is still of major concern. The author discusses the merits and locations of many cinchona varieties and related plants......


Apart from Robert Cross - the three key players in the Rubber Tree missions were folk that had already played a big part in collecting plants and had done important other work in South America. Clements Markaham and Richard Spruce were already known to Cross. Cross was not given primary responsibility to collect the Rubber plants and seeds. That task fell on an Englishman - Henry Wickham. Cross was back-up to Wickham - in case his mission failed.

According to one reliable source ( see site details below ) on the history of rubber and the respective contributions of Wickham and Cross :

In June 1876 seventy thousand of Wickham's seeds arrived at Kew Gardens; only 2700 seem to have germinated. According to the Kew records (see Baulkwill, 1989), 1900 of the seedlings were sent to the Botanic Gardens at Colombo, where 90 per cent survived; 18 went to the Botanic Gardens at Bogor, Indonesia, where two survived; and 50 went to Singapore where probably none survived.

During the same year, there was another collection of Hevea in Brazil, by Robert Cross, who departed from England after the arrival of the Wickham seeds; he returned in November with 1000 seedlings collected in the Lower Amazon.

The subsequent fate of these is a mystery; the general opinion seems to be that none of Cross's material survived, though Baulkwill suggests that some small admixture of Cross genetic material cannot be entirely ruled out. This matter is of some importance, because the Wickham and Cross collections were made in different regions of the Amazon, so that their materials would certainly have possessed differing genetic compositions. The probability is that the entire Hevea industry has developed from Wickham's 2700 seedlings, collected in the Upper Amazon, a very narrow genetic base.


Henry N Ridley ( Rubber Ridley ) Personalities - Henry Nicholas Ridley : Sometime Director Singapore Botantical Gardens

Ridley was also well-known as "Mad Ridley" or "Rubber Ridley" for his zealous promotion of hevea brasiliensis ( rubber trees ) before it caught on. This is significant in that it shows that even if Botanical staff had wanted to apply the results of scientific research to encourage large-scale planting for the wealth of the British Empire, planters had other plans. They were not interested in systematic methods when in came to cash crop planting: planters were interested only in the cash in cash-crops. At the time when Ridley was pushing rubber seeds into the pockets of planters whenever he had the chance, coffee was the moneyplant of the day, hence the lack of interest among planters, and presumably why Ridley was considered 'mad'. Even when the world faced a slump in coffee prices and planters rushed to rubber as the solution, to the lay planter, money, rather than science, was the main point of interest.



NP19 7JF



A picture of Henry Wickham


Wardian Case


A picture of Richard Spruce

Robert McKenzie Cross of Kew Gardens