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Stephen Elliot

Birthplace: Beaufort, SC, United States
Death: March 28, 1830 (58) (Apoplexy (Stroke))
Immediate Family:

Son of William Elliott and Mary Gibbes Elliott
Husband of Esther Wylly Elliott
Father of Bishop Stephen Elliott; Mary B. Habersham and Phoebe Caroline Elliot
Brother of William Elliot

Occupation: an eminent naturalist
Managed by: Sally Pamelia Dobson
Last Updated:

About Stephen Elliot

Stephen Elliott (November 11, 1771 in Beaufort, South Carolina – March 28, 1830 in Charleston, South Carolina) was an American legislator, banker, educator, and botanist who is today remembered for having written one of the most important works in American botany, A Sketch of the Botany of South-Carolina and Georgia. The plant genus Elliottia is named after him.

Stephen Elliott was born on Nov. 11, 1771, in Beaufort, South Carolina, the third son of William Elliott, a merchant. His father died when Stephen was a boy, and his older brother is said to have taken charge of his education. He was sent to New Haven, Connecticut in December, 1787, to be tutored by Judge Simeon Baldwin and entered Yale in February, 1788. Elliot received his B.A. from Yale in 1791, with valedictorian honors. His English oration was on "The Supposed Degeneracy of Animated Nature in America" (Ewan xxvii). Elliott then returned to South Carolina and became a planter. He was elected to the South Carolina legislature in 1793 or 1796 (sources disagree) and served until about 1800. In 1796 he married Esther Habersham, with whom he had a large family. From 1800-1808 he seems to have devoted himself to his plantation and to tbe study of natural history. In 1808 he was re-elected to the legislature, where he was active in promoting the establishment of a state bank. When the bank was established in 1812, he ceased legislative work and was appointed President of the "Bank of the State" and moved to Charleston. He remained president of the bank until his death.

In Charleston, Elliott was involved in a number of scientific and cultural concerns. He was active in the founding of the Literary and Philosophical Society of South Carolina and served as its president from 1814-1830; he was president of the Charleston Library Society; and he co-founded the Southern Review with Hugh Swinton Legaré in 1828. In 1820 he was elected president of South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina); most accounts say he declined the post, but one version says he declined after serving for a while. He was an early and active campaigner for the establishment of the Medical College of South Carolina, where he taught natural history and botany from 1824 until his death.

Elliott carried on an active correspondence with Henry Muhlenberg and other people interested in botany and natural history. He published A Sketch of the Botany of South Carolina and Georgia from 1816 to 1824 and thereby established himself as a major figure in the history of American botany. He received Honorary Doctor of Law degrees from Yale University (1819), Harvard University (1822) and Columbia University (1825) (Ewan xxx). Elliott has been memorialized in a number of ways. The Elliott College building on the University of South Carolina campus was named for him, and 1853 the Elliott Society of Charleston was founded. In 1933 a monument was erected over Elliott's unmarked grave in St. Paul's churchyard, Charleston (Ewan xxxi). Elliott is remembered also "in a genus of plants of the Heath family...established by Dr. Muhlenberg" (Sargent 202). Sargent is probably referring Ericaceae Elliottia racemosa (IPNI).

Elliott died "of Apoplexy" (most likely a stroke) in Charleston on March 28, 1830.

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Stephen Elliot's Timeline

November 11, 1771
Beaufort, SC, United States
August 31, 1806
Beaufort, Beaufort District, South Carolina, United States
March 28, 1830
Age 58