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Isaac Bayley Balfour

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Isaac Bayley Balfour

Isaac Bayley Balfour
Born Isaac Bayley Balfour
31 March 1853 (1853-03-31)
Died Did not recognize date. Try slightly modifying the date in the first parameter. (aged 69)
Residence Edinburgh
Nationality Scottish
Education University of Edinburgh (BSc); University of Glasgow (LLD)
Occupation botanist
Known for Major reform of the gardens, establishing a proper botanical institute, and largely redeveloping the layout of the gardens
Parent(s) John Hutton Balfour, Marion Spottiswood Bayley
Awards Linnean Medal of the Linnean Society (1919)

Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour, FRS, FRSE (31 March 1853 – 30 November 1922) was a Scottish botanist. He was Regius Professor of Botany at the University of Glasgow from 1879 to 1885, Sherardian Professor of Botany at the University of Oxford from 1884 to 1888, and Professor of Botany at the University of Edinburgh from 1888 to 1922.

Early Life

He was the son of John Hutton Balfour, also a botanist,[1][2] and Marion Spottiswood Bayley, and was born at home, 27 Inverleith Row, Edinburgh.[3]

He was the cousin of Sir James Crichton-Browne.


Balfour was educated at the Edinburgh Academy from 1864 to 1870. At this early stage his interests and abilities were in the biological sciences, which were taught to him by his father. Due to his father's post as Professor of Botany at Edinburgh, the young Balfour was able to visit the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens, not open to the public at the time.[4]

Balfour studied at the University of Edinburgh, from which he graduated with first class honours in 1873, and at the universities in Warzburg and Strassburg (Strasbourg).[4]

In 1874 Balfour participated in an astronomical expedition of 1874 to Rodrigues. Though the stated aim of the mission was to observe Venus, Balfour used the opportunity to investigate the local flora, and on his return, the fieldwork he had carried out permitted him to gain his doctorate.[4]

In 1879, his father resigned the chair at Edinburgh, Glasgow professor Alexander Dickson (1836–1887) was appointed in his place, and the younger Balfour was promoted to the chair of Regius Professor of Botany, Glasgow in Glasgow from 1879 to 1885. He also went on to lead an expedition to Socotra in 1880.[4]

In 1884, he was appointed Sherardian Professor of Botany at the University of Oxford.[4] In the same year he married Agnes Boyd Balloch.[5]

It was, however, after his return to Edinburgh in to take up his father's old chair from 1888 to 1922 that Balfour left his mark. His father had greatly enlarged the botanical gardens during his tenure, but Balfour completely transformed them. Having put their finances on a safer footing by transferring them to the crown, Balfour engaged himself in a major reform of the gardens, establishing a proper botanical institute, and largely redeveloping the layout of the gardens in order to have a proper arboretum, building new laboratories and improving scientific facilities.[4]

From 1888 to 1921 he was Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. He was elected President of the Scottish Horticultural Association in 1889 and President of the Edinburgh Botanical Society from 1880-1882 and 1904-1906. He was knighted (KBE) in 1920.

He died at Court Hill, Haslemere in Surrey.[6]

Specific interests

Balfour's interest in Sino-Himalayan plants also put him in contact with botanist and plant collector Reginald Farrer. Farrer provided valuable information to Balfour and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh by sending him his plant illustrations together with the field notes, botanical specimens and seeds he had collected.[7]

Honours, qualifications and appointments

  • 1873: Awarded Bachelor of Science degree (BSc) with first class honours, University of Edinburgh
  • 1873–1878: Appointed Lecturer in Botany, Royal Veterinary College, Edinburgh
  • 1875: Awarded Doctor of Science degree (DSc), University of Edinburgh
  • 1877: Awarded Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree (MB,ChB), University of Edinburgh
  • 1877: Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • 1879: Appointed Professor of Botany, University of Glasgow
  • 1884: Awarded Master of Arts degree (MA), University of Oxford
  • 1884: Elected Fellow of the Royal Society
  • 1884: Appointed Professor of Botany, University of Oxford
  • 1888: Appointed Professor of Botany, University of Edinburgh
  • 1897: Awarded Victoria Medal of Honour, Royal Horticultural Society
  • 1901: Awarded Doctor of Laws degree (LLD), University of Glasgow
  • 1919: Awarded Linnean Medal of the Linnean Society
  • 1921: Awarded Honorary Doctor of Laws degree (LLD), University of Edinburgh


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External links

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