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Robert Fortune

Birthplace: Edrom, Berwickshire, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Death: April 13, 1880 (67)
Gilston Road, South Kensington, London, England (United Kingdom)
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Lawful Fortune and Agnes Fortune
Husband of Jane Fortune
Father of Helen Jane Fortune; John Lindley Fortune; Thomas Fortune; Alice Durie and Agnes Fortune
Brother of Isabella Fortune; James Fortune; Margaret Fortune; Jane Fortune; Christian Fortune and 3 others

Occupation: Author and Botanist
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Robert Fortune

Robert Fortune

Scottish botanist and traveller, best known for introducing tea plants from China to India. He was responsible for the introduction of over 120 species of plants to western gardens.

Born 16th Sep 1812

Birth Place Village of Edrom near Duns in Berwickshire, Scotland

Baptism - Scotland's People

  • Bapt. 10/12/1812
  • Ref. FR333
  • Ref. 738/00 0020 0077

"Blackaddertoun 16th. September 1812 Thomas Fortune, hedger and Agnes Ridpath, his wife had a son born named Robert and baptized 10th. December before the Relief Congregation in Dunse."

Birthplace Kelloe, Edrom, Berwickshire, Scotland.

Parents The gravestone of his parents can still be seen in Edrom Churchyard.

Robert was one of nine children born to Thomas Fortune, hedger Kelloe and Agnes Ridpath. Their entry of marriage in the Old Parish Records for Edrom reads;

“24th. June 1812 Thomas Fortune and Agnes Ridpath both of this Parish were married”


  • Apprenticed to Mr. Buchan, gardener, after standard education.
  • 1840 - Edinburgh Botanical Gardens under tutelage of William McNabb, renowned platsman.
  • 1842 - secured post of Superintendent of the indoor-plant department in the Royal Horticultural Society's garden at Chiswick.
  • Appointed curator of the Chelsea Botanical Garden, resigned in 1848.


In 1838 he married Jane Penny daughter of a Henry Penny of Swinton. He was residing in Edinburgh at the time of the marriage;

Edinburgh 1st. October 1838 Robert Fortune gardener residing at 52 Broughton Street, St. Mary's Parish and Jane Penny residing at Number 43 Albany Street, same Parish daughter of Henry Penny, farm servant at Swinton have been three times proclaimed in order to marriage in the Parish Church of St. Mary's and no objections have been offered.


  • Helen Jane b. 1840
  • John Lindley Fortune 1843

- The Old Parish Records reads;

John Lindley, son of Robert Fortune, gardener London and Jane Penny his wife born at Kelloe 31st. December 1842 and baptized 9th. January 1843 by the Rev. Daniel Ker, minister of the Relief Congregation

  • Agnes
  • Thomas b. 1848
  • Alice 1861



Brompton Cemetery West Brompton Greater London, England 13 April 1880 at Gilston Road, South Kensington, London.

Find a Grave entry.



1842 - sent as collector to the society to China. Visited Java on the way out in 1843 and Manilla in 1845. Returned to England in 1846.

1848 - returned to China to collect plants and seeds of the tea-shrub on behalf of the East India Company.

1851 - India

1853 - visited Formosa and described the manufacture of rice-paper; About the same time visited Japan

1857 - commissioned to collect tea-shrubs and other plants from China and Japan for the United States of America.


1847 - 'Three Years' Wanderings in the Northern Provinces of China

In 1851 Fortune successfully introduced 2000 plants and 17000 sprouting seeds of tea into the north west provinces of India. described in Report upon the Tea Plantations in the North-West Provinces

1857 - published 'A Residence among the Chinese' - describing silkworm culture.

1857 - 'Yeddo and Peking'

Open Plaques

Dunse History Society

Spoils of Fortune

view all

Robert Fortune's Timeline

September 16, 1812
Berwickshire, Scotland
December 10, 1812
Berwickshire, Scotland
London, England
December 31, 1842
Middlesex, England
Middlesex, England
April 13, 1880
Age 67
London, England