William Roxburgh lived from 29 June 1751 to 10 April 1815. He was a doctor and botanist who did much to promote the science of botany in India. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
William Roxburgh was born at Craigie in Ayrshire, about 4 miles south of Kilmarnock. He studied medicine and botany at the University of Edinburgh, and in 1768 at the age of 17 he became a surgeon's mate on an East India Company ship. In 1776 he became an assistant surgeon with the Madras Medical Service, and was promoted to surgeon in 1780. In 1781 the East India Company made use of his botanical background and appointed him superintendent in the Samalkot garden close to the Bay of Bengal.
In 1790 he became Naturalist to the Madras Government, and in 1793 he was asked by the Government of Bengal to take charge of the Calcutta Botanical Gardens. Roxburgh worked assiduously to catalogue the contents of the garden and have detailed illustrations made of the plants. The complete catalog of the garden's plants was published in 1814 as Hortus Bengalensis.
Roxburgh also became a pioneer meteorologist, collecting detailed weather data three times each day for many years. His readings led him to publish a number of theories about the role of climate change in causing famine. He was also a member of the Asiatic Society of Calcutta, contributing a number of papers to their journal.
William Roxburgh died in Edinburgh in 1815 at the age of 64. Volume 1 of his Flora Indica; or Descriptions of Indian Plants was published posthumously in 1820. with Volume 2 following in 1824.