Chemist and Natural Philosopher, born in Lismore, Ireland.
Among his many interests, Boyle studied vacuum, and the properties of air such as combustion, respiration and the transmission of sound. He is known widely for Boyle's Law, which states that at a constant temperature the volume of a gas is inversely proportional to pressure. The site of his laboratory can still be seen in Oxford's High Street.
Mark Catesby left Britain for the colonies in Virginia in 1712. In the five years he was in America, and on a later visit in 1720, he made extensive collections of plants, mainly from Carolina, which he sent back to colleagues and friends in England. He sent much material to Sir Hans Sloane and this is now housed in two volumes of Sloane's herbarium.
These collections contain many new plant species from America and many type specimens. As Catesby himself wrote 'Both in Carolina and on these Islands, I made successive collections of dried Plants and Seeds. These I imparted to my curious Friends, more particularly (as I had the greatest Obligations) to that great Naturalist and Promoter of Science, Sir Hans Sloane, Bart to whose goodness I attribute much of the success I had in this undertaking!'.
Botanist, born in Småland, Sweden
Linnaeus is regarded as the founder of modern taxonomy (the science of naming and classifying living and fossil organisms). He classified both plants and animals and devised the system of scientific naming that we use to this day. Above all his great achievement was to order the confusing variety of systems of classification that were in use in the 18th century. Linnaeus' own collections are housed today at the Linnean Society of London.
Botanist, entomologist and apothecary, born Rugby, Warwickshire
Petiver was the proprietor of an apothecary shop, from where many medicinal queries, shipment of drugs and scientific information were dispatched. This shop also stored a vast and varied collection of natural history specimens and Sloane was said to have offered Petiver £4,000 for the collections. Sloane did acquire both specimens and the principal manuscript remains of the apothecaries, after Petiver's death.
Naturalist and collector, born in Westminster
Plukenet was a competent botanist whose work was admired by Linnaeus. He was strongly critical of others, often rudely, and often argued with Sloane. However he amassed a large herbarium of 8,000 plant specimens from many parts of the world. Ironically these eventually came to Sloane in 1710, via the Bishop of Norwich who had acquired them on Plukenet's death. They now occupy 23 volumes of Sloane's herbarium at The Natural History Museum.
British naturalist, born Black Notley, Essex
John Ray was one of the most significant natural scientists of his time and was known as both 'the Father of Natural History' and the 'Aristotle of England'. Ray made the first notable attempts to produce a system of classification of plants and animals based on structural characters such as numbers of petals, length of tail etc. He was also the first to use the word 'species' in its scientific sense. An annotated copy of his major work, the Historia Plantarum is still used as a form of catalogue to Sir Hans Sloane's botanical collections in The Natural History Museum.
Tournefort was Keeper of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Paris from 1683 until his death. Like Sloane he was trained as a physician but had a strong interest in botany and again like Sloane was an avid collector. Tournefort devised a practical system for classifying plants which was used widely until largely replaced by Carl Linnaeus' system in the mid 18th century.