Obituary of Miles Joseph Berkeley
scanned from "Northamptonshire
Notes & Queries" Vol IV.
567. Northamptonshire Obituaries
The Rev. Miles Joseph Berkeley, M.A.,
The subject of our memoir belonged to the
Spetchley branch of the Berkeley family - his great-great-grandfather,
Maurice Berkeley (baptized at Spetchley, 1 Sept. 1636), who settled at
Apethorpe, Northamptonshire, in 1661, and who is buried in Apethorpe church,
being a nephew of Sir Robert Berkeley, of Spetchley Court, Co. Worcester,
Chief Justice of the King's Bench in the time of Charles the First. Miles
Joseph was the second son of Charles Berkeley, esq., of Biggin Hall, near
Oundle, and Charlotte his wife, daughter of James Munn, esq., of Blackheath.
He was born at Biggin Hall on the 1st April, 1803. He attended Oundle
Grammar School as a day scholar for a short time, and then went to Rugby. At
Rugby he displayed considerable ability, and at the age of eighteen 1821 was
entered at Christ's College, Cambridge. He graduated as fifth senior optime
in 1825 and it was thought by his friends that he might have taken higher
honours had he not devoted so much of his time to scientific researches. He
became attached to natural history from an early period, and his scientific
tendencies, both zoological and botanical, after being fostered at Rugby,
were kept alive and vigorous when at Cambridge by an intimate acquaintance
with the late Prof. Henslow. During a summer residence at Loch Lomond in
1823, and at Oban in 1824, he made considerable collections of specimens of
the lower forms of animals and plants. At this time he made the acquaintance
of Captain Carmichael, a cryptogamic botanist, whose association with the
young student must have been of considerable advantage.
Mr. Berkeley was admitted deacon and
curate of Stibbington, near Wansford, on December 1st, 1826, and in the same
month he was appointed curate of Thornhaugh. He continued, however, to
reside at Stibbington, until he was appointed to the important curacy of S.
John's, Margate, on May 14th, 1830. When residing at Stibbington he was
ordained priest on December 23rd, 1827 and here it was, in this year, that
he made a considerable number of drawings of fungi, and ascertained the real
structure of the hymenium in agarics. During his stay of nearly three years
at Margate Mr. Berkeley made some important discoveries with regard to vine
disease in conjunction with Dr. Hoffmann, and Mr. Tucker, a gardener. The
disease was named, after Mr. Tucker, "Oldium Tuckeri." He made
very valuable experiments on yeast and also on the use of sulphur for the
cure of vine diseases; and although the French government gave pecuniary
rewards to other scientists for the discovery, it was not until a later
period that the French government and the late King of Portugal officially
recognized his services. During the time he was at Margate his earliest
contributions to science - devoted to Mollusca - were published in the
Zoological Magazine, and in the Magazine of Natural History. He was an
expert draughtsman, and some of his unpublished drawings of British land
shells were placed by him at the disposal of Mr. Lovell Reeve, and are
acknowledged by that author in his preface to Land and Fresh-Water Mollusks.
On January 28th, 1833, Mr. Berkeley
married Cecilia Emma, daughter of Mr. John Campbell, of Blackheath, and
grand-daughter of Archibald Campbell, of Kenmore, N.B. This lady was an
accomplished linguist, and gave him great assistance in translating French
and Italian works. She also made a number of the drawings of fungi in his
unpublished book of illustrated fungi, subsequently given by him to Kew. He
was presented to the two small perpetual curacies of Apethorpe and Wood
Newton, in March of the same year. In December, 1834, he was appointed
chaplain to the Earl of Westmoreland. He then resided at King's Cliffe, near
Wansford. In 1833 appeared his first important scientific work, Gleanings of
British A1gae, which deals mainly with mintute microscopic types. This was
followed in 1836 by his Monograph of the British Fungi, which forms the
third volume of Hooker's British Flora. This work made Berkeley's
reputation, and continued the only hand-book of the British Species for
thirty-five years, and was of course indispensable to every worker on the
same subject. It was founded on the Systema Mycologicum of Fries, but his
labours - considering the ignorance of British Mycology at the time - in
gathering the materials, and putting their result into scientific form, must
have been very great, and showed tbat he possessed a special faculty of
observation and a keen judgement which in this department of botany, have
never been out-rivalled. From this date he was the referee to whom all
disputed matters were referred ; foreign as well as British specimens being
sent to him. His descriptions of them were published in the various
scientific journals from time to time. He made many experiments and
investigations on the diseases of plants ; his researches on the pototo
disease and the vine being especially valuable in an economic sense.
In 1837 he commenced Notices of British
Fungi in the Magazine of Zoology and Botany, the forerunner of the Annals
and Magazine of Natural History, and these appeared at intervals until 1848,
when Mr. Broome became his coadjutor, and the fungi collected by Mr. Darwin
during the voyage of "The Beagle" the novelties in the Hookerian
and British Museum Herbaria, Cumming's Phillipine Fungi, and many others,
Between 1844 and 1856, appeared The
Decades of Fungi. During these years he must have worked with intense
activity, for in addition to his scientific labours and classical duties the
burden of a large family led him to take pupils. It was not till some years
later that he received a pension from the Government. In June of 1854 was
made rural dean of part of the Northampton district.
In 1857 he published his Introduction to
Cryptogamic Botany, which perhaps was his most useful work, as it led to the
wide diffusion of knowledge of that group, and moreover shewed remarkable
originality. Our literature of the subject was materially affected by it.
In 1860 appeared The Outlines of British
Fungology, with numerous figures of fungi. From an early period he assisted
Dr. Lindley in the preparation of articles for the Journal of the Royal
Horticultural Society, and on his death became the botanical adviser of the
Society, and secretary of its scietitific committee. He acted as general
referee for the Gardener's Chronicle from its formation in 1841, till within
the last few years, and published in it many valuable papers on vegetable
pathology. In 1863, he published his Handbook of British Mosses which
contained descriptions and plates of all the species then recorded for Great
Britain. In that year he was awarded the gold medal (Biological) of the
Royal Society, a prize he highly valued. He contributed a series of articles
on the diseases of plants to The Cyclopedia of Agriculture. The proof sheets
of that magnum opus, Bentham's and Hooker's Genera Plantarum passed under
his eyes. He was responsible for the record of many of the plants given for
Northamptonshire, Hunts, and Rutland, in Watson's Topographical Botany.
In May, 1868, he was presented to the
more valuable living at Sibbertoft, and in the following year he was
appointed by the Earl of Clarendon as British Conimissioner to the Hamburg
Exhibition of 1869. As Mr. Berkeley found that in the botanical and
horticultural departments the Exhibition did not equal English Flower Shows,
it is not surprising that his report is a very brief, and it must be added,
not a very appreciative one. In 1871, Mr. Berkeley was made rural dean of
Rothwell deanery. In 1879 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, and
shortly after presented his extensive collection of fungi, amounting to
upwards of 10,000 species, to Kew. It has been estimated by Mr. G.E. Massee
that it contains 4,866 type specimens named by himself, and that Mr.
Berkeley must have named in all nearly 6,000 species. A few of his most
valuable scientific books shortly after went to the same place. A capital
Portrait of him was given by his friend Mr. W. G. Smith in The Gardener's
Chronicle, and a less pleasing oil painting by Peel was subscribed for and
presented to the Linnaen Society in 1878.
The writer first formed his acquaintance
at a meeting of the Northamptonshire Natural History Society, In the Council
Chamber about 1876. At that time a1though a little deaf he had all the charm
of conversation and eager liking for the things of nature as any student. He
related with evident zest his climb up St. Vincent's Rocks after Veronica
Hybrida, and Geranium Rotundifolium. His kindness may be best explained when
one states that the botanical veteran offered to supply a copy of his MS.
notes on the phanerogams of the county to the neophite who met him, a
promise which he amply fulfilled In a correspondence which lasted till his
eighty-third birthday, when he sent a brief note on some plant occurrence.
In 1881 he was delighted to meet with Gagea1utea in the Sibbertoft combes.
Altogether he supplied the writer with notices of upwards of a hundred
flowering plants of the county, several of which were first recorded by him.
In 1884, Mr. Berkeley's retirement from active labours in the sphere he had
worked so long was announced. In the Annals and Magazine of Natural history
of that year, Mr. Berkeley in a concluding note to his contribution on
British Fungi, said that he was glad to be able to make a certain
correction, "as this," he added, "is in all probability the
last of a long series of contributions."
In appearance he was a tall well-built
man of singularly noble presence, and a head of magnificent intellectual
grandeur which recalled that of Fries. His long white hair and patriarchal
aspect were conspicuous at Visitation services at All Saints', Northampton.
He was rural dean for many years both when at King's Cliffe and Sibbertoft.
He was Honorary Fellow of the Horticultural Society of London, of S.
Augustine's College, Canterbury, and of Christ College, Cambridge, and was a
member of several foreign scientific societies. He was for some years
examiner in botany at Cambridge, London University, and Apothecaries' Hall.
In the scientific world his name will ever be honoured. Among contemporary
workers he held a place not second even to Greville, Wilson the Biologist,
or Harvey the Psychologist. He was a pioneer in research into the
life-history of many organisms, and practised the culture of these plants,
so as to obtain a true idea of their development and nature. His philosophic
method of investigation has by later workers led to a revolution in many of
the old opinions, and established most important scientific facts.
By his death which took place on July
30th, 1889, the Northamptonshire Natural History Society loses its Botanical
President - who by his inspiriting address teeming with nature's lore in the
early days of its existence, did so much to awaken scientific zeal among its
members - and a genial friend whose interest in its work never abated.
G. Claridge Druce, M.A., F.L.S.