Collecting localities



Biographical data


Jack, William


(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 1: Cyclopaedia of collectors)

(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 5: Cyclopaedia of collectors, Supplement I)

(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 8: Cyclopaedia of collectors, Supplement II)


Born: 1795, Aberdeen, Scotland. Died: 1822, at sea near Bencoolen, S. Sumatra.



Surgeon in the employ of the East India Company in British India, 1813-18, and on the staff of Raffles (see there), accompanying the latter to Sumatra. Through family circumstances the wife of Raffles was for some months left behind in P. Penang under the care of Jack. This time he was left with light duties and the interesting flora of Prince of Wales’ Island to investigate. In Bencoolen he was allowed to spend most of his time with the study of the botany of Sumatra. After his visit to Calcutta in 1819, his time was demanded more than before by other occupations. After an attack of lung trouble, he made a voyage to Java in the hope of recovery, but returned worse; according to Raffles he was carried off by acute malaria, the day after his embarking for the Cape.

He was commemorated in the genera Jackia Blume and Jackia Wall. and in several plant species.


Collecting localities:1

Malay Peninsula: landing at Penang (Dec. 31, 1818), staying in the island till May 22, 1819; possibly landed on the Kedah shore; Singapore (May 31-June 27); via Rhio (= Riouw) to S. Sumatra, Bencoolen; Sept. 2 for a week to Rat Island (= P. Tikoes, opposite Bencoolen).-After a visit to Calcutta in 1819, he returned at Bencoolen (March 3, 1820), after 2 days of collecting in W. Sumatra: Tapanoeli and Mansilar Isl. (= P. Moesala) (according to Jack on Febr. 23-25, according to Raffles previous to Febr. 12!). -In the same year a trip via Natal (Oct. 15), P. Kumbang, P. Bi(n)tangor, P. Pegang and P. Shytan to Nias (Nov. 14-early in Jan. 1821);2 return voyage via Natal (Jan. 5). In June 1821 journey to the Sugar Loaf Mountain (G. Ben(g)ko(h)), starting from Bencoolen (June 10).3-1822. To Moco-Moco by sea (Apr. 1), returning (15) by land via Ipu.



An important part of his botanical notes and collections was lost by the fire of the ship ‘Fame’ on which Raffles embarked for Europe in 1824. Jack had sent duplicates of his collections to Wallich at Calcutta, which were distributed with the East India Comp. Herbarium,4 probably in: Herb. Linn. Soc. Lond. [LINN] (later pres. to Kew [K]), Brit. Mus. [BM], Kew [K], Herb. Deless. (Geneva [G]) (from Sumatra) and other herbaria. Some dupl. in Herb. Leiden [L]; Herb. Webb (= Florence [FI]).5 Lady Hastings asked for a Hortus Siccus on behalf of the Mus. Edinburgh; he intended to send a secondrate collection, but evidently nothing of the kind at present is preserved in that Museum.6 At the sale of Lambert’s Herbarium in 1842 a batch of Sumatra plants was sold, of which it was supposed that Jack was the collector; it was bought by Pamplin, a London dealer.7

Jack described part of his collections in his ‘Malayan Miscellanies’, afterwards reproduced in other serials;8 also other systematic papers in various periodicals.9

A few plants from Penang have escaped recent collectors, according to Ridley it is possible that some of those which were distributed by Wallich as from Penang were really collected in Sumatra.10 Hypericum alternifolium Vahl, no 4806, was collected in Riouw, erroneously labelled Penang!

A valuable evaluation of Jack’s genera and species was published by Dr Merrill.11 In 1953 Dr J.M. Cowan methodically searched the Herb. Edinburgh [E] for Jack specimens and found 64 in all (incl. 1 dupl.). No record of how and when they were acquired was found, but it is presumed that these are the specimens sent to Lady Hastings (cf. Cyclopaedia, Fl. Mal. vol. 1); they were probably in the University Herbarium which was transferred to the Garden in 1918.12

There is a possibility that some of the paintings from Raffles’s collection (see there) may be helpful in interpreting Jack’s Sumatran species.



(1) cf. W. Jack: ‘Malayan Miscellanies’ (Bencoolen 1820-22, 2 vols); ‘Brief Memoir and extracts from his correspondence’ (Hook. Comp. Bot. Mag. 1, 1835, p. 121-147); ‘William Jack’s letters to Wallich, 1819-1821’ (Journ. Str. Br. Roy. As. Soc. no 73, 1916, p. 147-241).

(2) Description of Nias in Jack, Malayan Miscellanies 2, 1822, no 8 (reprinted in Hook. Comp. Bot. Magaz. 1, 1835, p. 137-140).

(3) cf. Malayan Misc. 2, 1822, no 1, p. 1-22 (republ. in Hook. Comp. Bot. Magaz. 1, 1835, p. 141-144).

(4) Wallich’s ‘Catalogue of the plants in the Hon. E.I.C.’s Herbarium’, lithographed from 1828-32, and Sir J. Hooker’s ‘Flora of British India’, contain the elaboration of Jack’s herbarium.

A list of Jack’s herbarium as far as recorded in various places is given in Journ. Str. Br. Roy. As. Soc. no 73, 1916, p. 241-268.

(5) cf. Pflanzenreich IV, 165, p. 697.

(6) cf. Journ. Str. Br. Roy. As. Soc. no 73, 1916, p. 212 and 215 (also footnote).

(7) cf. advertisement in Athenaeum 1842, p. 44.

Dr J. Bastin kindly drew my attention to Don’s account of Lambert’s Herbarium, Appendix p. 31, where it reads: “The late Dr. William Jack, who was attached to the suite of Sir Stamford Raffles, Governor of Sumatra, has sent all the specimens described in the first volume of the ‘Malayan Miscellanies’ among which are three splendid species, of that most remarkable genus of plants, Nepenthes.”

(8) ‘Descriptions of Malayan Plants’ (Malayan Misc. 1, 1820, no 1, p. 1-26; l.c. no 5, p. 1-48; l.c. 2, 1822, no 7, p. 1-96). Republished in Hook. Bot. Misc. 1, 1830, p. 273-290; l.c. 2, 1831, p. 60-89; Hook. Journ. Bot. 1, 1834, p. 358-380; Hook. Comp. Bot. Magaz. 1, 1835/36, p. 147-157, 219-224, 253-272; Cale. Journ. Nat. Hist. 4, 1843.

(9) e.g. in Transact. Linn. Soc. 14, 1823, p. 1-22, 23-45, 114-130 (abstr. in Flora 6, 1823, Beil. 93).

(10) cf. Journ. Str. Br. Roy. As. Soc. no 25, 1894, p. 164.

(11) E.D. Merrill: ‘William Jack’s genera and species of Malaysian plants’ (J. Arn. Arb. 33, 1952, p. 199-250, 1 pl.).

(12) J.M. Cowan: ‘Some information on the Menzies and Jack collections in the Herbarium, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh’ (Not. R. Bot. Gard. Edinb. 21, 1954, p. 219-227).


biographical data:

Hook. Comp. Bot. Magaz. 1, 1835, p. 121 seq.; Lasègue, Mus. Bot. Deless., 1845, p. 145-147; Greshoff, Nutt. Ind. Pl., 1895, p. 90-91; Gard. Chron. 18992, p. 252-253; Burkill in Gard. Bull. Str. Settlem. 4, 1927, nos 4-5; Biogr. Index Britten & Boulger, 2nd ed. by Rendle, 1931; Backer, Verkl. Woordenb., 1936; J. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. 56, 1960, p. 449-456; cf. also above sub Liter. 1.