Dr. Nathaniel Wallich or as styled in Danish state documents
- Nathaniel Wallich, was born at Copenhagen, in Denmark on January
28, 1786. In 1806 Wallich obtained the diploma of the Royal Academy
of Surgeons at Copenhagen and about the end of the same year
was appointed Surgeon to the Danish settlement at Serampore,
then known as Frederischnagor in Bengal. He sailed for India
in April 1807 and arrived at Serampore in the following November.
Meanwhile, war broke out between England and Denmark and Serampore
was captured by the English and retained by them until 1815.
Wallich was taken fugitive and later released from his parole
as a prisoner of war on merit of his scholarship.
From August 1814 Wallich's name was in the list of the East India
Company's service as Assistant Surgeon and consequently he had
to resign as Superintendent of the Museum in December 1814. By
the year 1813 he was well known for his scientific attainments
and his keen interests in the flora and natural vegetation of
India. He became a member of the Asiatic Society. It was Wallich
who gave the essential impetus to the proposal of forming a museum
in a letter dated the 2nd February 1814 to the Council of the
In that letter after adverting to the advantage of science that
would ensue from the establishment of a museum, Wallich offered
his services to the Society and some items from his own collections.
The Society heartily supported the proposal and resolved to set
up a museum and to appoint Wallich to be the Honorary Curator
and then Superintendent of the Oriental Museum of the Asiatic
Society. Dr. Nathaniel Wallich took charge of the Museum on June
1, 1814.The Museum thus inaugurated, thrived rapidly under the
guidance of its enthusiastic founder Wallich and individual collectors.
Most of them were Europeans except a solitary Indian, Babu Ramkamal
Sen, initially a Collector and later the first Indian Secretary
to the Asiatic Society. Wallich was temporarily appointed Superintendent
of East India Company's Botanical Garden at Calcutta and later
permanently joined the Garden in 1817 and
served there till 1846 when he retired from the service. He was
for some time holding joint responsibilities as Superintendent
of the Museum and the Garden at least unto 1819.
Wallich was not only the enthusiastic founder and the first Curator
of the oldest museum in India, now known as the Indian Museum,
he was one of the largest donors to the Museum at its inception.
Out of one hundred seventy four items donated to the Museum till
1816 Wallich donated forty-two botanical specimens. As a botanist
of high repute, he prepared a catalogue of more than 20,000 specimens,
besides publishing two other important books --namely Tentamen
flora nepalensis illustratae (1824-26) and Plantae asiaticae
Wallich breathed his last in London on April 28, 1854. Dr. Nathaniel
Wallich has been remembered by the authorities of the Indian
Botanical Garden by naming the avenue after him and erecting
a monument, commemorating his service rendered to the study of
Botany. On the occasion of his bi-centenary, in 1986, the Indian
Museum instituted a prestigious annual lecture series to cherish
the memory of the doyen of museum movement in India.