Monday, 18 December 2017

Patrick Matthew and the Theft of his Giant Redwood Fame

Identity VerifiedThinker in Science / Social Sciences / Sociology
Mike Sutton
Mike Sutton
Dr Mike Sutton is the author of 'Nullius in Verba: Darwin's greatest secret'.


The Race for Giant Redwood Fame and the Beginnings of the Modern Sustainability Movement:

Jan. 10, 2016 4:46 am
Categories: CounterknowledgeDysology
Postscript: Sunday 10th January 2016 22.30 GMT. A more detailed version of this blog post can be found on The Patrick Matthew Blog   , which delves deeper into the John Lindley Wellingtonia Plagiarism Question with more data and detail.
Postscript 23rd January 2016. The Wildlife photographer Peggy Edwards kindly sent an email update from the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh on some the information contained in this blogpost. She writes
'I spent an afternoon at RBGE examining Pinetum Britannicum and other Matthew references. The Pinetum folio volumes are magnificent with several prints of SEGIs, cones, etc.
What the Gardener's Chronicle lists as 2 at Mayquick Castle by Errol is actually listed in the Pinetum as "2 at Megginch Castle by Errol", which makes whole lot more sense given this statement. Also in Vol 3 of the Pinetum:
"Mr. Matthew, in order to multiply the chances of their success, divided them into three portions, one of which he retained, one was given to Dr John Lyall of Newburgh, and the other to Mr. Duncan, then gardener at Megginch Castle."
NOTE Peggy has detected that that the Gardener's Chronicle almost certainly misspelt Megginch as Mayquick. The only Mayquick Castle mentioned in any book anywhere is the single mention that iis in the Gardener's Chronicle.   (1866).
Postscript 18.12.2017 My book Nullius in Verba Vol 1 (of 3 volumes) is out in paperback: Here


Today, I wish to share yet another tale of race for fame and bogus claims to priority.
The story is about the first introduction of giant Californian redwood trees into Britain. The bogus claim to priority for the introduction and naming of these trees was made by a naturalist who turns up many times in my book Nullius   His name is John Lindley. In fact, the men subsequently proven to be genuinely first to introduce the tree to Britain, and to refer to it as 'Wellingtonia' before Lindley, were Patrick Matthew and his son John Matthew.
The Beautiful and Grand Historic Matthew Trees in Scotland    are classed a 'Monumental Trees'. Of all the giant redwoods in Britain, the tallest are those planted by Matthew in the district of Perth and Kinross.
Giant redwood trees are the largest trees in the world by volume and can live up to 3,200 years.
Felled in the 19th century, this hollow giant redwood could have stabled 50 horses!
Interestingly, one of those in Darwin's social circle of naturalists was involved in a bit of a controversy that - had it not been for one letter Matthew sent to the Gardener's Chronicle - might have resulted in he and his family being deprived of another right to full priority for acts of originality.
Lindley believed that he knew he was the first to receive the tree seeds in Britain having received them from the collector John Lobb in 1853, via the nursery owner James Veitch (see Chessell 2011).    Having placed himself at the centre of the introduction of the seeds in Britain, whilst simultaneously casting some doubt upon upon the certainty of a written account of the existence of the trees - which the botanist David Douglas    had sent to William Hooker - Lindley (1853)    claimed priority on behalf of Lobb. So strategically positioning himself, Lindsey ensued that he was the noted botanist best able to name the tree. He proposed 'Wellingtonia gigantea" after the British hero the Duke of Wellington.
In fact, Patrick Matthew's son John had sent him seeds six months before Lobb's arrived in Britain. The proof was in the letter Matthew sent to the Gardener's Chronicle six months before (See Simblet 2014, p. 93)   .
Lobb returned the England, from California, with Giant Redwood seeds in December 1853, On 25th August 1853 Patrick Matthew received a packet of Giant Redwood seeds, a branch from the tree and a sketch of the tree along with a letter explaining where they found the trees Extracts from John Matthew's letter were published in the Gardener's Chronicle in 1845. The Gardener's Chronicle settled priority in John and Patrick Matthew's favour in 1866.
'So much for the actual discovery of the tree; but there is another point, on which general opinion is also at fault, viz, who first introduced it into Europe? The credit of doing so is generally given to Mr Lobb, and his employer, Mr. Veitch, for whom he was collecting. But, if our information be correct, it to Mr. John D Matthew, son of Patrick Matthew Esq of Gourdie Hill near Errol.
Mr. Lobb returned from California in December 1853, bringing his seeds with him, as appears from the following remarks by Dr Lindley in this Journal on December 24 in that year :-
"The other day," says he we received from Mr. Veitch branches and cones of a most remarkable Coniferous tree, also Californian, seeds and a living specimen, of which have also been brought him by his excellent collector Mr. W. Lobb, who wear happy to say, has returned loaded with fine things."
The extraordinary conifer referred to was the Wellingtonia, and this announcement was the first of several notices by the Doctor regarding it.
Six months before that, however, Mr Matthew's son had written to his father, informing him of the discovery of the giant trees, and forwarding a sketch of some of them, a small branch and some of its seed. His letter was dated 10th July 1853, and was received along with the seeds on the 28th of August following. The letter was published in extenso in this Journal in the following year 10th June. It contains little, but details which then fresh and full of interest, are now old and well-known but it fixes the date of the first envoi of seeds. The seeds all succeeded, and 11 of them have been traced and details regarding them given in the "Pinetum britannicum" are distributed as follows :-
2 at Gourdie Hill by Errol
2 at Mayquick Castle by Errol
2 at Ballendean by Inchture
1 at Kinnoul Nursery Perth
1 at Dr Lyall's Newburgh Fife
1 at Balbirnie Fife
1 at Inchry House Fife
1 at Eglinton Castle Ayrshire


John Matthew describes the most likely tree from which all the Matthew Trees seeds came
Patrick Matthew's 1854 published letter on page 373, Vol 14 of the Gardener's Chronicle    includes interesting information about the giant redwoods that supplied the seeds which became the famous Matthew Trees in Britain. Two of Matthew's sons went to California to pan for Gold. In the following account, from a letter sent to Patrick Matthew, by his son John Matthew, dated July 1853, (published in the Gardener's Chronicle in June 1854) mentions pockets of quartz, because quartz rock often indicates where gold it to be found. John Matthew refers to the giant Californian redwood as the 'Wellingtonia', the name which was eventually officially dropped - although its unofficial usage continues in some circles to this day. Notably, John describes that he had quite a struggle getting to the tree that provided the seeds for the Matthew Trees in Britain. They found it in a swamp and John calculated it was some 1800 years of age. He describes a fallen tree nearby with a hollow inside that could stable 50 horses. From the size of specimens today, and the general stock of 19th century images provided of these trees, this was no exaggeration.
Most remarkably, John Matthew provides early negative feelings towards the destruction of these ancient monumental trees - a rare sentiment in that 'age of destiny,' which began in the US press a year earlier.
Most significantly, it was progressive thinking about conserving thee giant redwoods that kick-started the entire modern conservation movement - and the most recent 'sustainability movement   ' - over 160 years ago
The John Matthew July 1853 letter, published in 1854   , which proved he and Patrick Matthew had priority for bringing the first giant redwood trees into Britain.

- Home Correspondence -

Wellangtonia - The following is an extract of a letter from my son, ( mining engineer and surveyor), dated Jamestown Tuolumne county, Alta California, July 10 1853 :- "Last Saturday, I went along with one of my partners to see the "Big Tree," discovered in Calaveras county near the head-waters of the Stanislaus river. We crossed the river near Carson's Hill, where the richest pockets in quartz yet discovered in California, have been found. From Carson's Hill, we went on to Murphy's Camp, where we got horses. and after a three hours ride over a tolerably good trail, ascending pretty rapidly towards the base of the Sierra Nevada, at first through woods chiefly of Oak and Pine (Spruce), and afterwards of immense Pines, Fir, Arbor vitae, and Cedar, we reached a closely wooded-bottom, where the trees were more luxuriant than I have seen in any other region, with a good deal of under- brush, through which we had to force our way, and in this swamp we found the Wellingtonia, whose dimensions are as follows; - Diameter at the ground, 34 feet; diameter about 120 feet up; 20 feet diameter about 120 feet up; 14 feet, height, 290 feet age estimated at nearly 3000 years. I do not think, however, that it is so old, as I find there is on an average about 15 annual rings in the cross-section of its wood near the root to the inch, and taking the tree above the swell of the root at 10 foot to the centre, that is 120 inches, at 15 years to the melt gives only 1800 years. They are now cutting the tree down, and should it be perfectly solid to the centre, the exact age will soon be ascertained. In all climates, which have a decided summer, and winter so as greatly to vary the activity of vegetation the wood deposit of each year, viewed in the cross-section presents a distinct ring. In the same swamp there are many other trees of nearly the same diameter. I stepped round several 30 yards in circumference, while one which had fallen has a hollow inside fit to stable 50 horses. This gigantic Methusalem forest of the olden time seems to have extended back into periods anterior to any but geological record. The whole surface of the ground is strewed with immense trunks, or their remains, in every stage of decay, in many instances covered with vegetation - so as to look like green earthen mounds the mural vestiges ancient camps - and only by cutting into them are they found to be rotten wood. The other trees of the swamp consist of one species of Balsam Fir, two species Pine, from 3 to 7 feet in diameter, and from 250 to 300 feet high; and two species allied to the Cedar, of the same diameter as the Pines, but not so tall. Amongst the underwood are Hazel, Raspberries, Currant, Gooseberry, Dogwood, Poplar and Willow, with a number of others which we do not have in Europe, one of them the Rhus Toxidendron, or poison vine, poisonous to touch. The bark for about feet has been removed from the "Big Tree" for the purpose of putting it up in its natural figure, at World's Fair, New York, along with a section of both. There has been much talk here of the Goth-like act of cutting down the tree, the largest and oldest in the world, as the Californians boast. It would have been a pity to do so, were there no others like it; but 1 many in the same swamp are nearly of the same dimensions, and I see it reported in the Stockton papers that one found on the head waters of the Moquelumnc, in the same county is 40 feet in diameter. P. Matthew Gourdie Ilill Errol NB.''
Botanical naming of the giant Californian redwood tree
The name 'Wellingtonia gigantea"was disliked in the USA - from where the trees originated. Debates to name the tree went on for a number of years, Eventually the tree was officially named 'Sequoiadendron giganteum' to reflect its botanical link to the coastal or California redwood, 'Sequoia sempervirens'.
Note: At the time of writing (10th Jan. 2016) Wikipedia    and a host of other websites and books have got one fact wrong. It is disconfirmed by John Matthew's letter as reprinted in the Gardener's Chronicle in 1853. (1) John Matthew did not personally arrive in the UK with the seeds. He sent them to his father Patrick Matthew - who planted them.
Moreover, note the point of interest that John Matthew called the tree Wellingtonia before Lindley received his seeds. So how could Lindley have first named the tree Wellingtonia - as so many 'experts' claim? Did Lindley name it before John Matthew anyway? If so where and when?

John Lindley is constantly on the periphery of the story of Darwin, Matthew and Wallace

John Lindley is an interesting character in the story of Matthew, Darwin and Wallace. He was a professor of botany at the University of London and best friend of William Hooker - who was the father of Darwin's best friend Joseph Hooker (who dishonestly countersigned Darwin's letter to the Gardener's Chronicle in 1860 that contained Darwin's proven lie
Nullius in Verba
that no naturalist had read Matthew's original ideas on natural selection before 1860). Lindley co-authored an encyclopedia with the naturalist and polymath John Loudon. In 1832, Loudon reviewed Matthew's book and wrote that it appeared to have something original to say on 'the origin of species'. Lindley went on to write two pieces on the important 19th century economic botany topic of of naval timber - neither of which cited Matthew's book.
I wrote in Nullius (Sutton 2014):   
Moreover, it would be weird for Lindley not to pay attention to a book on naval timber, because he knew full well the importance of the issue of timber for naval purposes and its pertinence for economic botany. We know this because he wrote on the exact same topic as Matthew several times (e.g., Lindley 1839, p. 383 and then in 1853, pp. 228-279). Lindley went on to correspond with Darwin. Besides being a very close friend of William Hooker, he was also a co-author with Loudon, another who we know read NTA because he reviewed it and cited it several times. As Chapter Four revealed, Lindley's name crops up again in the investigation of Darwin's fraud because James Floy, who appears to have been first to second-publish the Matthewism "law manifest in nature," had been corresponding with Lindley and sending him seeds from New York. Darwin (1862) was aware of that correspondence and wrote to Asa Gray seeking information about Floy's "trustworthiness" as a botanical information source'
'If Lindley did read NTA, we know that he would have ardently disagreed with Matthew's Chartist politics because he went so far as to organize and drill an armed militia of gardeners to oppose Chartist crowds in 1848 (see Drayton 2009). Lindley, therefore, had double the cause of most other naturalist to despise NTA, which was a book thick with Chartist politics linked inextricably to libertarian Chartist ideals.'
'Politics to one side for a moment, perhaps Professor Lindley, who later was to become a fellow of the Royal Society, was not a curious man. Perhaps he was entirely self-obsessed, and so focused solely on the review of his own book? If so, that might explain why he never noticed, or if he did, why he never followed up in the literature on the subject matter of the origin of species, raised just nine lines of text above his own name by his associate and co-author John Loudon 1832 :

Proof Darwin Lied and Engaged in Fraudulent Glory-Theft
I cannot help wondering whether Darwin's ability to dismiss Matthew as being unknown and obscure, and the 155 years of Darwinist parroting of their namesake's lies and fallacies about Matthew and about his book and its readership, as the gospel truth, might not have happened had John and Patrick Matthew received credit and consequent fame for first introducing the famously celebrated giant redwood trees into Britain? As a telling example of just how enamoured the British were with these trees, in the 1860 edition of the Gardener's Chronicle in which Darwin (p.363)    admits that Matthew prior-published and first conceived the idea of natural selection, the preceding page mentions Wellingtonia trees three times, and a total of no less than 76 times in the volume.   
The facts of this story are covered in much greater detail on the Patrick Matthew Blog   where you can also read an additional post   , which reveals further data and explains how this multiple victimisation of Matthew fits what criminologists know about the phenomenon of repeat victimisation.

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