Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward

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Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward

Birthplace: London, Middlesex, England
Death: Died in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, England UK
Immediate Family:

Son of Stephen Smith Ward
Husband of Charlotte Elizabeth Ward
Father of Stephen Henry Ward; Mary Ward; Richard Ward; Charlotte Ward; Ann Ward and 3 others

Occupation: Medical Doctor, Plant Collector, Botanist
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward

Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward

Birth date: 1791

Birth Place: London, England

Date of Death: 4 June 1868

Place of Death: St. Leonards on Sea, East Sussex, England


"His grave at Norwood (grave 4,870, square 48), although recorded in the burial register, is not marked on the cemetery map. There is no surviving monument in the square or in the immediately adjacent areas. His son Dr Stephen Henry Ward (1818/9-1880) is also buried in the grave." [3]


Father: Stephen Smith Ward - medical Doctor




Occupation: English doctor


The glass case that he used to rear butterflies and grow plants was used widely during the time for introducing plants into the British colonies. In 1833 George Loddiges used Wardian cases for shipping plants from Australia and said that "whereas I used formerly to lose nineteen out of the twenty of the plants I imported during the voyage, nineteen out of the twenty is now the average of those that survive".

He is believed to have been sent to Jamaica at the age of thirteen where he may have taken an interest in plants. He practised medicine in the East End of London and took an interest in botany and entomology in spare time or when on vacation in Cobham, Kent.

He became a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1817.

Dr Ward delivered a lecture on his discovery of a way to preserve plants in 1854 to the Royal Society at the Chelsea Physic Garden. He also worked on microscopy and helped in the development of the Chelsea Physic Garden as a member of the board. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1852. [1]

"He practised as a physician in the East End of London (some records suggest that he was a surgeon) and pursued his interests in botany and entomology in his spare time, and when on vacation in Cobham, Kent." [2]

While training at the London Hospital as a physician, he spent much time studying at the Chelsea Physic Garden. He took over his father's practice at Wellclose Square, Whitechapel, but continued his botanical activities. [3]

"Ward, first in Wellclose Square and then, after retiring from practice, in Clapham, developed two well-known gardens in the trying conditions of urban air pollution. He invited scientific friends for evening gatherings, frequently centering on microscopy, and the Microscopical Society (founded 1840) arose out of these meetings. From 1836 to 1854 he was examiner in botany to the Society of Apothecaries and became Master of this society in 1853. He was also a member of the Chelsea Physic Garden's board. After their financial disaster of the 1850s, he played a large role in redeveloping the Garden, and became the Society's Treasurer. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1852. He arranged the transfer of the herbaria of Ray, Dale and Rand to the British Museum in 1863' [3]

The Wardian Case

"It was some time around 1829 when, pursuing his interest in entomology, Ward saved the pupa of a moth in a 'Natural environment' in a sealed jar. History does not clearly record the fate of the moth, but after some time he noticed that a fern and some grass had started to develop in the soil at the base of the jar. His curiosity for how long the ferns could survive in this sheltered environment led to one of the most important botanic/economic discoveries of the Victorian age, the Wardian Case." [2]

"Ward hired a carpenter to build a case for further experimentation. He specified that the frame was to be built as tightly as possible, with the hardest of woods to resist decay from condensation, and soon the first 'Terrarium' was born. In July 1833, he conducted his first major experiment by shipping two custom built cases filled with a number of native British ferns and grasses to Sydney, Australia. After six months on the high seas, the cases arrived in Sydney Harbour with all the plants alive and thriving.

The cases, as per his instructions, were cleaned out and filled with a number of Australian native species that had proven impossible to transport in the past. It was not until February 1835 that the cases were sent on their return journey. After an eight-month storm wracked voyage back around the Horn, during which time the cases were subjected to all sorts of abuse, they arrived in London, where Dr. Ward waited eagerly to inspect their contents. The experiment was a resounding success, and Ward published a brief pamphlet, 'The growth of Plants without open exposure to the Air' describing his methods. He followed it with the 1842 book 'On the Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases'.

Soon all of England adopted these terraria, or Wardian Cases as they were commonly known, and a national passion developed for exotic plants, particularly ferns, suited to growing in the sheltered environs of these increasingly ornate cases." [2]


1842 'On the Growth of Plants in closely glazed Cases'

Notes: A second edition of his publication was illustrated by his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Stephen Ward, and her brother E.W. Cooke - Edward William Cooke married Jane Loddiges, daughter of George Loddiges.

Notes, References, Sources/Links, Family Trees etc.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathaniel_Bagshaw_Ward

[2] http://www.plantexplorers.com/explorers/biographies/ward/nathaniel-bagshaw-ward.htm

[3] http://www.fownc.org/newsletters/no53.shtml

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Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward's Timeline

London, Middlesex, England
Age 27
Middlesex, England
Age 29
Middlesex, England
Age 31
Age 32
Middlesex, England
Age 35
Middlesex, England
Age 39
Middlesex, England
Age 40
Middlesex, England
Age 42
Middlesex, England
June 4, 1868
Age 77
St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, England UK