Michael Pakenham

Michael Pakenham

Michael Pakenham Edgeworth (1812–1881) was an Irish botanist who specialized in seed plants and ferns, and spent most of his life and work in India.He was born in County Longford, Ireland in 1812, one of twenty-two children to Richard Lovell Edgeworth. His mother’s name was Frances. His half-sister, born to Honora Edgeworth, was the novelist Maria Edgeworth. Among his other siblings were Honora (sister), Fanny (sister), Lucy (sister), and Francis (brother). With his wife Christina he had a daughter named Harriet. Although he is known to have had an estate of 1,659 acres in County Longford, Ireland, at a young age he left for India in 1831 to join the Indian Civil Service of the British Colonial regime. Edgeworth’s post encompassed an area from Lahore to Madras. Being possessed of a curious spirit, Edgeworth travelled widely throughout India[5] and the island of Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka) where he collected plants and made notes. In 1850 he was made the Chief of Police of the English settlement Punjab. In addition to his interest in botany, he also wrote about Indian tongues[6] and culture, topography, and antiquities.
But he wasn’t always in India; as a correspondence[7] from Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker mentions a conversation held between himself, Edgeworth and biologists John Lubbock and George Charles Wallich, at a meeting of the Linnean Society of London (18 April 1861) less than two years after the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (22 November 1859). Unfortunately, very little of the content of this conversation is revealed in the letter.


M P Edgeworth

In the field of botany, Edgeworth wrote:
Descriptions of Some Unpublished Species of Plants from North-Western India (R.Taylor, 1851)

Catalogue of Plants found in the Banda district, 1847-49, pp.60.8 (Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta 1852, Vol. xxi.)

Pollen (Hardwicke + Bogue, 1877)

He also kept meticulous diaries from the years 1828 (just a few years before going to India) to 1867, compiled in the weighty, 8,000-page volume entitled India in the Age of Empire – The Journals of Michael Pakenham Edgeworth (1812–1881). It chronicles the broadening of British imperial influence in the Indian territories and is principally of cultural and political interest. It was published after his death in 1881.

Below the Edgeworth Chrysanthemum named for Michael P. Edgeworth

Edgeworth Chrysantha

The genus was named in honour of Michael Pakenham Edgeworth (1812–1881), an Irish-born Victorian era amateur botanist, who worked for the East India Company, and for his sister, writer Maria Edgeworth. The species name chrysantha derives from the Greek chrysos meaning ‘golden’ and ‘anthos’ meaning flower, due to the gold coloured flowers