Historic, but not famous

Jane Colden, botanist

Jane Colden (1724 – 1766) was the first female botanist in the United States. She is most famous for her manuscript in which she describes the flora of the New York area, and draws ink drawings of 340 different species of them. She was born in New York City and educated at home. Her father gave her botanical training by following the new system of classification developed by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist.

Between 1753 and 1758, Ms. Colden catalogued New York’s flora, compiling specimens and information on more than 300 species of plants from the lower Hudson River Valley. She developed a technique for making ink impressions of leaves and illustrating many with ink drawings. To many drawings she added pieces of folklore, suggesting medicinal uses for the plant.

Colden participated in the Natural History Circle where she exchanged seeds and plants with other plant collectors in the American colonies and in Europe. In 1756 she discovered the Gardenia which was outside of the classifications set by Linnaeus. Her manuscript of plant drawings is in the British Museum.

Colden married Scottish widower Dr. William Farquhar on March 12, 1759. She died in childbirth only seven years later at the age of 41; the child also died in the same year. There is no evidence that she continued her botanical work after her marriage.

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