Sir William Jardine, 7th Baronet, lived from 23 February 1800 to 21 November 1874. He was a naturalist and a publisher and author. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Sir William Jardine was born in Edinburgh, the eldest son of Sir Alexander Jardine. He was educated at Edinburgh High School before becoming a medical student at the University of Edinburgh in 1817. His interests rapidly expanded to include geology and natural history. In 1820 he married Jane Home Lizars. In 1821 Jardine inherited his title and the family home of Jardine Hall near Lockerbie, complete with a 5,000 acre estate on the edge of the River Annan, on the death of his father.
Jardine made use of his independent means to pursue his interest in the natural world, becoming an highly regarded geologist, entomologist and botanist, developing particular areas of expertise in the fields of ornithology and ichthyology (the study of fish). Jardine was able to establish links with a very broad range of fellow enthusiasts right around the world, many of whom contributed specimens to Jardine's growing collection which, by the time of his death, comprised tens of thousands of specimens or skins representing 6,000 different species: all housed at Jardine Hall.
Jardine's true contribution was in the way he chose to share the knowledge he was accumulating. In 1842 he published "The Naturalist's Library". This comprised 40 leather-bound volumes, each a handy pocket-size 5 inches by 4 inches. The library was divided into four phylum categories: Ornithology, Mammalia, Entomology, and Ichthyology, and each volume included a description of each known species plus hand-coloured illustrations.
The descriptions and illustrations were commissioned by Jardine from the leading naturalists and artists of the day, and the result was a comprehensive encyclopedia of nature which gathered in one place almost everything then known about the natural world, and in a form easily accessible to anyone who could read.
A number of other important books were also published by Sir William Jardine. These included more accessible new editions of Gilbert White's Natural History of Selborne and Illustrations of Ornithology. He also published the first widely affordable edition of Alexander Wilson's American Ornithology. He died at Sandown on the Isle of Wight.