Robert Brown is one of the renowned and leading botanists of Australia. Robert Brown is most well-known for his description of the natural continuous motion and his ability to distinguish between conifers and their allies and the flowering plants. Robert Brown also discovered that the nucleus was the central constituent of all living cells and also facilitated the natural classification of plants on various grounds.
Robert Brown was born on 21 December, 1773 in Montrose, Scotland. He was the son of Reverend James Brown, an Episcopalian and his mother was Helen Brown. Robert Brown studied in the Montrose Academy, then proceeded to Marischal College, Scotland and then shifted to Edinburgh with his family in 1789. He then studied medicine at the Edinburgh University. In 1795, Brown was commissioned in the Fifeshire Regiment of Fencibles as a subordinate of surgeon. In November 1798, Robert Brown became the associate of the Linnean Society. In December 1800, Sir Joseph Banks offered him the post of a naturalist in Matthew Flinders’ expedition on “The Investigator” and he readily accepted this post. Robert Brown traveled with this regiment to Northern Ireland and remained there till 1800.
Before joining Sir Joseph Banks, Robert Brown thoroughly studied about plants and his acute observations helped him to secure a safe position in the scientific world. He made extensive collections from his expedition on the Kent’s Group Islands in 1803-04, however, he realized that these plants had already been mentioned by La Billardiere in his book. So Brown again went back to Sydney and toured the Hunter River Sea and made extensive collection of plants.
Robert Brown’s major work was “Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae et Insulae Van-Diemen”, of which the first part was published in 1810. In December 1805, Robert Brown became the clerk, housekeeper and librarian of the Linnean Society. He became the librarian of Sir Joseph Banks in 1910 and held this post till 1820. In the late 1820’s, Brown refused a position in Edinburgh University because of his lack in medical teaching and another post at Glasgow University. He maintained cordial relations with the Linnean Society. From 1823 Robert Brown was in the council of Linnean Society and thereafter he became the vice-president. He also became the president from 1849-53 and after that became the vice-president.
Robert Brown was highly admired by his contemporaries and he received many academic honors and made many discoveries in the field of science. The molecular agitation started by Robert Brown is known as “Brownian movement”. He was deeply involved with Australian botany. The last work of Brown was an appendix to Charles Sturt’s “Narrative of an Expedition into Central Australia” which was published in 1849.
Robert Brown passed away on 10 June, 1858 and his personal collections were acquired by the British Museum in the year 1876. Later on these works were duplicated and sent to various other museums. Australia does not have any specific collection of Robert Brown but there are some specimens at the National Herbarium of New South Wales, Sydney and the National Herbarium of Victoria, Melbourne. In 1866-68, the Royal Society reprinted all his major works, except the “Prodromus”.