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Augustine Henry (1857 - 1930)

Augustine Henry was a man of underrated genius who possessed an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

Augustine Henry was born Austin Henry in Dundee, Scotland on July 2nd, 1857, to parents Bernard and Mary Henry (nee McManee). He was raised and educated in Ireland, where he trained as a doctor at Queen's University, Belfast, and graduated MA in 1878. In 1881 the Chinese Imperial Customs Service, which was a Chinese governmental office that hired mostly Europeans, employed him as an Assistant Medical Officer.

Henry had an uncanny ability with languages, and an insatiable desire to learn more and soon spoke Chinese well enough to earn the respect of local officials in Shanghai and improve greatly the efficiency of the customs house. He moved to the remote settlement of Ichang in 1882 where he was assigned the additional task of finding medicinal plants. He soon developed a great love of botany and, as with all things he undertook in life, studied it intently.

His contributions to our understanding of Sino Himalayan flora are difficult to calculate, but his 'amateur' efforts in collecting and recording hundreds of species helped to launch the explorations of E. H. Wilson, George Forrest, Frank Kingdon Ward, and many others.



Selected by the SciLinks program, a service of
the National Science Teachers Association.
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