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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00034

William Jameson manuscripts and correspondence

Scope and Content

The Jameson collection consists approximately 220 letters to Jameson, dated 1827 to 1869, and manuscripts attributed to Jameson.

Correspondence is in English and Spanish and falls into six groups: Isaac Anderson-Henry (43 letters, 1850-1867, bulk 1852-1856); José Manuel Estrada (39 letters, 1848-1869); Teodoro Maldonado (28 letters, 1862-1864, bulk 1863); family correspondence (20 letters, 1848-1869); correspondence with the Ecuadorean government (10 letters, 1835-1856); mixed correspondence (approximately 80 letters from 60 correspondents, 1827-1869).

Manuscript material is in Spanish and consists of loose sheets and stitched booklets. Some sheets are entitled "Leccion" and are numbered. Subject matter includes chemical symbols and nomenclature, theory of atoms, properties of chemical elements and compounds, chemical reactions, electricity, and organic chemistry. A few sheets are dated 1861-1868. Manuscript material does not appear to be deliberately arranged and there appears to be repetition. It may be a draft for a text on chemistry.

The collection also contains miscellaneous notes and receipts and a pamphlet.


  • 1827-1869


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available by appointment for research. Researchers must register and provide valid photo identification. Please contact for additional information.


0.75 linear feet (2 flat boxes, 1 legal manuscript box)


William Jameson was born on October 3, 1796, in Edinburgh, Scotland and studied medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. He attended courses in chemistry and natural history and was particularly interested in botany. Jameson intended to use medicine as a means of foreign travel and upon completing his diploma in 1818, he accepted a position as surgeon on a whaling ship. Though the voyage to Greenland was unprofitable, it provided Jameson with an opportunity to investigate the local flora.

Through appointments as ship’s surgeon, Jameson traveled again to Greenland in 1820 and later that year departed for South America. In 1822 he moved to Guayaquil, Ecuador, but disliked the climate and left in 1826 to settle in Quito. He married a local woman and had several children. Jameson was appointed professor of chemistry and botany at the university in Quito in 1827 and retained that position until he left Ecuador in 1869. He also held positions as assayer and director of the mint.

Jameson corresponded with and sent specimens to Scottish and English botanists and published articles in several European botanical journals. In 1864 he was commissioned by the Ecuadorean government to compile a flora of Ecuador. The first two volumes of his “Synopsis Plantarum Aequatoriensium” were published in Spanish in 1865. The third volume was never completed; the manuscript is held at the British Museum.

In November 1869 Jameson returned to Edinburgh after first visiting two of his sons in Argentina. Following some months in Edinburgh, Jameson departed from Liverpool for South America in November 1872. By the time he reached Valparaíso, Chile, in January 1873, his health had been weakened by overcrowding and bad weather during the voyage. Jameson contracted a fever on his way back to Quito and died there on June 21, 1873.


Anderson-Henry I. 1876. Biographical Notice of Professor Jameson of Quito. Trans. and Proc. Bot. Soc. Edinburgh. 12:19-28.


The provenance of this collection is unknown. It may have been sent with some of Jameson’s herbarium following his death, possibly by way of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Jameson, William, 1796-1873. William Jameson manuscripts and correspondence, 1827-1869: A Guide.
Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University.
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Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University Repository

The Harvard University Herbaria houses five research libraries that are managed collectively as the Botany Libraries. The Gray Herbarium Library specializes in the identification and classification of New World plants with emphasis on North American plants. The Archives of the Gray Herbarium houses unique resources including personal papers, institutional records, field notes and plant lists, expedition records, photographs, original artwork, and objects from faculty, curators, staff, and affiliates of the Gray Herbarium.

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