Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Lawrence, Robert William (1807 - 1833)
Born in England on 18 October 1807, died at 'Formosa', Tasmania, on 18 October 1833, possibly due to an epileptic fit.
The first son of a wealthy English merchant, William Effingham Lawrence (1781-1841). The father with his wife and two of Robert's siblings migrated to Van Diemen's Land in 1822-23. He purchased a cutter, the Lord Liverpool, to make the journey. William became an influential landowner near Launceston on granted land.
Robert had stayed in England and followed his family to Tasmania in April 1825. His father built a house, Vermont, for him near the North Esk River where he resided until around June 1832 when he moved to the family estate of Formosa near Cressy to act as overseer of his father's estate.
Recruited by W.Hooker in 1830 as a collector' he forwarded specimens to Kew until 1832. He made the first collections, including the type of Podocarpos lawrencii, from the mountains south west of Launceston, the Western Tiers, which rise close behind his family property 'Formosa'. He was instrumental in recruiting Gunn as a collector for Kew. After his untimely death in 1833 his collections were included in Gunn's herbarium; these bear the initials RWL and usually a Lawrence number. His main collection is in K, with some duplicates in G, MANCH, NSW and OXF.
A much longer biography is in Dick Burns' book, Pathfinders in Tasmanian Botany, published by the Tasmanian Arboretum in 2012.
In one of his early letters to Hooker in 1830 he wrote:
". . . I have a taste for the science of Botany.
My knowledge of this science is certainly very slight indeed,
I am a mere learner and without a preceptor but I hope that in time,
by application I shall become as much of a Botanist as to enable me
to be useful to you now if you will accept my services such as they may be."
Plants named in his honour include:
Correa lawrenciana (1834)
The genus Lawrencella (1839) with two arid Australian paper-daisy species
The genus Lawrencia (1840) with 16 Australian species in the Malvaceae
Podocarpos lawrencei (1845)
Spyridium lawrencei (1863)
Deyeuxia lawrencei (1940) a grass now presumed extinct.
Sources: Extracted from: A.E.Orchard (1999) A History of Systematic
Botany in Australia, in Flora of Australia Vol.1, 2nd ed.,
ABRS. [consult for source references]
Burns, Dick (2012), Pathfinders in Tasmanian Botany: an honour roll of people connected through naming Tasmanian plants, Tasmanian Arboretum, Devonport, Tas.