The Rev. Dr. John Walker's Report on the Hebrides of 1764 and 1771

The Rev. Dr. John Walker's Report on the Hebrides of 1764 and 1771

The Rev. Dr. John Walker's Report on the Hebrides of 1764 and 1771

The Rev. Dr. John Walker's Report on the Hebrides of 1764 and 1771

Excerpt

John Walker was born in 1731 in Edinburgh, where his father was rector of the Canongate School. He was a gifted child, said to be enjoying Homer in the original and reading James Sutherland's 'Hortus Edinburgensis' at the age of ten. Natural history was to become the driving force of his life and botany especially his dearest pursuit; he was to remark in later life to Lord Kames, when Linnaeus' theory of a connection between man and apes was being considered,

I have been from my cradle, fond of vegetable life; and though I like my species and the rank
I hold in creation, I declare I would sooner claim kindred to an oak or to an apple-tree than
to an ape.

Geology was another field of intense interest. At the age of fifteen, he began a collection of minerals and when a student at the University of Edinburgh found inspiration in the teaching of Professor William Cullen, whose chemistry courses he attended and with whom he went on tours to collect fossils and rocks. Cullen's far-reaching range of interests included medicine, botany, chemistry, agriculture and mining, and John Walker received a sound introduction to the work of contemporary scientists and especially to the work of systematisation and classification in botany.

Walker was educated for the ministry of the Church of Scotland. In 1754 he was licensed by the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright and four years later became minister of Glencorse, near Edinburgh. There he met Henry Home, Lord Kames, the renowned agricultural improver, jurist and prominent figure of the Edinburgh enlightenment, who was to become a lifelong friend and correspondent on scientific and agricultural matters. Through Kames, Walker met many of the great savants of the day; he was introduced to Benjamin Franklin, met Rousseau and began a correspondence with Linnaeus. During the years at Glencorse he was able to go on botanical and mineralogical expeditions in the nearby Pentlands, adding to current knowledge of species of plants and rocks. In 1761 he made his first journey in the Highlands and the following year he was in the Hebrides. That year he was translated to the parish of Moffat where he remained minister until 1783 when he moved to Colinton, outside Edinburgh. At both Moffat and Colinton he transformed the manse gardens into botanical wonderlands. Throughout his mature years he carried on a very active correspondence, answering queries from anyone . . .

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