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Biographical entry Hinds, Richard Brinsley (1812? - 1847)

MRCS Nov 8th 1833; FRCS (by election) Aug 26th 1844; LSA Jan 24th 1833.

Swan River, Western Australia, Australia
botanist and General surgeon


Entered St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1829 and matriculated at the London University in 1830, where he obtained honours. He must have shown some unusual interest in botany, for he is reported to have gained the Gold Medal of the Society of Apothecaries for botany, though there is now no record of the award. He entered the Royal Navy as Assistant Surgeon on Feb 28th, 1835, being appointed to the Royal Naval Hospital at Haslar, and was appointed Surgeon to HMS Sulphur on the China Station on Sept 26th, 1835, being invalided home on April 30th, 1841. HMS Sulphur was one of the hydrographer's surveying vessels, and was employed on the Pacific Survey with officers specially chosen for their scientific attainments. She went north on the outbreak of war with China, and her commanding officer, Commander E Belcher, won promotion to Captain, on May 6th, 1841, for his war services in the Sulphur, and received the honour of knighthood on Jan 21st, 1843. Whilst serving as Surgeon to the Sulphur Hinds made the first collection of Hong Kong plants which reached England. His stay was only a few weeks in January and February, 1841, but he was enabled on his return to England to place in the hands of G Bentham, Hong Kong specimens of nearly 140 species the enumeration of which Bentham published in Hooker's London Journal of Botany (1842, i, 482-94) at the end of Hinds' "Remarks on the Physical Aspect, Climate and Vegetation of Hong Kong". In 1844 he edited the Botany of the Voyage of HMS Sulphur, the botanical descriptions being by G Bentham.

Hinds was promoted Surgeon on Jan 31st, 1843 for his meritorious work on the China Station, having already (Aug 6th, 1842) been appointed to HM Yacht William and Mary to arrange the specimens brought to England in the Sulphur. The unofficial record states that he accompanied Captain Edward Belcher round the world from 1836-1842 inclusive, and that he obtained great praise from the Lords of the Admiralty for his care in collecting various species of natural history. He was employed by them to edit the natural history of Captain Belcher's voyage, towards the expenses of which they contributed £500. In 1844 Sir William Barnett, Director-General of Naval Hospitals and Fleets, nominated Hinds for election to the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons as a representative surgeon from the medical service of the Royal Navy. His health was impaired by fever caught in the performance of his duties, and on Jan 23rd, 1845, he received permission to proceed to Australia. He was discharged from the William and Mary on Jan 31st, 1845, and was placed on the unfit list with a diagnosis of phthisis on May 19th, 1845. He died at Swan River, Western Australia, in 1847.

Mr John Hendley Barnhart, of the New York Botanical Garden, Bronx Park, New York City, writes regarding him:-

"Richard Brinsley Hinds, Surgeon in the British Navy, and Member from 1833 and Fellow from 1844 of the Royal College of Surgeons, is known to science almost exclusively by his labours in connection with the voyage of the Sulphur, to which he was 'Assistant Surgeon' and later 'Surgeon', from 1835 to 1842. He made rich zoological and botanical collections, contributed an extended account of the regions of vegetation to Captain Belcher's narrative of the voyage, edited the volumes dealing with zoology and botany, and himself wrote the entire volume on shells; yet scarcely a word seems to be on record concerning his life before the voyage began or after the publication of the volumes mentioned.

"The Sulphur sailed from Plymouth on Dec 24th, 1835, visited Madeira and Teneriffe, arrived at Rio de Janeiro on Feb 19th, 1836, stopped at the island of Santa Catharina and at Montevideo, and reached Valparaiso on June 9th. Here Beechey, the Commander, was invalided home, and Kellett temporarily succeeded him. The Sulphur then proceeded up the coast, being at Callao, Payta, and Guayaquil in August, and at Gorgona Island in January, 1837, and arriving at Panama on the 29th of that month. Here Belcher, the new Commander, joined the expedition in February, and the Sulphur continued the voyage on March 15th, stopping for several days at an island off the Panama coast, named by them Magnetic Island, remaining for over a week, April 4th-l3th, at Realejo (Corinto), Nicaragua, and another week, April 15th-22nd, at La Libertad, Salvador; while here, Hinds probably accompanied the Commander to San Salvador. The next stop was at Manzanillo, Colima, and after two weeks at San Blas, Tepic, the mainland was left behind on June 10th, and, after a visit at Honolulu, July 17th-27th, again regained Alaska, at Port Etches (Nutchek), in Prince William Sound, August 23rd. Then came a voyage southward along the coast, including stops at Sitka, San Francisco, Monterey, San Blas, and Acapulco, the first Central American port visited being Realejo (Corinto), Nicaragua, Feb 4th to March 20th, 1838. Here Hinds and Barclay accompanied the Commander on a land trip to El Viejo volcano, and by Chinandega, Posoltega, Leon, Pueblo Nuevo, Nagarote, Maliares, and Managua, as far as Tipitapa, returning by nearly the same route.

"Sailing from Culebra, Costa Rica, on March 27th, the Sulphur proceeded by way of Cocos Island and the Galapagos to Callao, June 3rd, remaining there until Aug 28th, and returning, with stops at Payta and Puna, to Panama on Oct 17th, 1838. Leaving Panama on Nov. 1st, and spending three days, Nov 14th-17th, at Realejo, the vessel anchored at San Carlos (La Union), Salvador, Nov 19th-30th, while a land-party, including Hinds, visited San Miguel and Chinameca.

"After revisiting Realejo, Nov 30th to Dec 2nd, San Carlos, Dec 2nd-30th (Hinds, with others, visited the volcano Coseguina, across the bay, in Nicaragua), and Realejo, Dec 31st, 1838, to January, 1839, a month and a half was spent at Puntarenas, in the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica, and about two weeks at Panama, and on March 26th, 1839, the Sulphur finally left the shores of Central America, stopping at Cocos and Clipperton Islands, and arriving at Honolulu on May 31st. Later the Sulphur again cruised along the North American coast, in the same year, from Alaska to Mexico, and then visited various islands of the Pacific and the Malayan region, China and Ceylon, and returned by way of Madagascar, Cape of Good Hope, St Helena and Ascension, arriving in England on July 19th, 1842.

"Hinds spent the next two years and a half studying his collections and publishing his results. Early in 1845 he again left England, and died a year or two later in Western Australia."

Hinds published many articles in Sir William Hooker's Annals of Natural History, and a small octavo of 137 pages in 48 chapters in 1843 (G J Palmer, Savoy Street, Strand) entitled, The Regions of Vegetation, being an Analysis of the Distribution of Vegetable Forms over the Surface of the Globe, the result of personal observations on geographical botany whilst serving in HMS Sulphur. The nucleus of the book appeared in The Annals of Natural History and in Sir William Hooker's Journal of Botany for June, 1842.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lond. and Prov. Med. Directory, 1848, 120. Information kindly supplied by Surgeon Vice-Admiral Arthur Gaskell, Director-General RN; by John Hendley Barnhart, of the New York Botanical Garden, Bronx Park, New York City; and by F Haydon, Clerk to the Society of Apothecaries. Bretschneider's History of European Botanical Discoveries in China, 363, where there is an annotated list of 27 of the more noteworthy plants collected at Hong Kong by Hinds, closed on page 365 by the remark, "The genus Hindsia (Chinconaceae) was founded by Bentham upon an American plant"].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England