born in Halesworth, Suffolk and was the second son of the famous
botanist Sir William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865) by his wife Maria
Dawson Turner, eldest daughter of the banker Dawson Turner who had
botanical interest, and sister-in-law of Francis Palgrave. He was
educated at Glasgow University, where his father was professor in
botany. Almost immediately after taking his MD degree there in 1839
at the age of 22, he joined Sir James Clark Ross's Antarctic expedition
to the South Magnetic Pole, receiving a commission as assistant-surgeon
on the H.M.S. Erebus. In the second year of the expedition, he was
appointed their botanist.
botanical fruits of the three years he thus spent in the Southern
Seas were the two volumes of Flora Antarctica (1844–47),
Flora Novae-Zelandiae (1851–53) and Flora Tasmaniae (1853–59),
which he published on his return. He
had come across some fossil plants found during his travels. Through
a good word of his father, he was appointed botanist to the Geological
Survey of Great Britain in 1846. he would stay interested in palaeobotany
till the end of his life.
next expedition was to the northern frontiers of India (1847–51),
and the expenses in this case also were partially defrayed by
the government. The party had its full share of adventure. Hooker
and his friend Dr Archibald Campbell were detained in prison for
some time by the Raja of Sikkim, but nevertheless they were able
to bring back important results, both geographical and botanical.
survey of hitherto unexplored regions, the Himalayan Journals,
dedicated to Charles Darwin,was published by the Calcutta Trigonometrical
Survey Office. He
then started the series Flora Indica in 1855, together with Thomas
Thompson. Their botanical observations and the publication of
the Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya (1849–51), formed the
basis of elaborate works on the rhododendrons of the Sikkim Himalaya
and on the flora of India. His works were illustrated with lithographs
by Walter Hood Fitch.
1859 he published the Introductory Essay to the Flora Tasmaniae,
the final part of the Botany of the Antarctic Voyage. It was in
this essay (which appeared just one month after the publication
of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species"), that
Hooker announced his support for the theory of evolution by natural
selection, thus becoming the first recognised man of science to
publicly back Darwin.
other journeys undertaken by Hooker were those to Palestine (1860),
Morocco (1871), and the United States (1877), all yielding valuable
scientific information. In
the midst of all this travelling in foreign countries he quickly
built up for himself a high scientific reputation at home. In
1855 he was appointed assistant-director of the Royal Botanic
Gardens, Kew, and in 1865 he succeeded his father as full director,
holding the post for twenty years. Under the directorship of father
and son Hooker, the Royal Botanical gardens of Kew rose to world
the early age of thirty he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society,
and in 1873 he was chosen its president (till 1877). He received
three of its medals: the Royal in 1854, the Copley in 1887 and
the Darwin in 1892. His greatest botanical work was the Flora
of British India, published in seven volumes between 1872 and
acted as president of the British Association at its Norwich meeting
of 1868, when his address was remarkable for its championship
of Darwinian theories. Of Darwin, indeed, he was an early friend
and supporter: it was he who, with Charles Lyell, first induced
Darwin to make his views public, and the author of The Origin
of Species recorded his indebtedness to Hooker's wide knowledge
and balanced judgment.
was the author of numerous scientific papers and monographs, and
his larger books included, in addition to those already mentioned,
a standard Students Flora of the British Isles and a monumental
work, the Genera plantarum (1860–83), based on the collections
at Kew, in which he had the assistance of George Bentham.
the publication of the last part of his Flora of British India
in 1897 he was created GCSI, of which order he had been made a
knight commander twenty years before; and ten years later, on
attaining the age of ninety in 1907, he was awarded the Order
of Merit. In 1904, at the age of 87, he published A sketch of
the Vegetation of the Indian Empire.
Hooker died on 10 December 1911. His wife declined the proposal
of a burial of his body in Westminster Abbey alongside Darwin.
Oak in Chico, California is named after him.