Annotated Bibliography

Published sources about Hooker

Site Information

Please note: this is still very much a work in progress and new entries and comments will be added regularly over the next few months. Please feel free to email me with suggestions about books I should add to these lists and with additional annotations (or, of course, strenuous disagreements with my assessments; which I will consider posting here).

This bibliography is divided into five sections:

  1. Works dealing primarily with Hooker.
  2. The wider context.
  3. Works by Hooker’s contemporaries.
  4. Hooker’s own writings.
  5. Hooker’s collectors.

1. Works dealing primarily with Hooker

This includes all the main biographies, together with major scholarly articles that deal in some detail with Hooker’s career.


Title and details


Allan, M. (1967)

The Hookers of Kew, 1785–1911. (London, Michael Joseph)

A charming, if rather dated, study of both JD Hooker and his father, William. Lacks detailed references, which makes it hard to follow-up some of the information. Some of the late Ms. Allan’s friends have told me she was oblivious to the double entendre she had perpetrated in her title (while others think it was deliberate).

Bellon, Richard (2001)

‘Joseph Hooker’s Ideals for a Professional Man of Science’. Journal of the History of Biology, 34: 51–82.

Bellon’s essay is the most up-to-date contribution towards the continuing debates over the professionalisation of the sciences during the nineteenth century. He argues that it useful to call Hooker a professional, as long as one recognises the term’s distinctive Victorian connotations.

Bellon, Richard (2005)

'A question of merit: John Hutton Balfour, Joseph Hooker and the ‘concussion’ over the Edinburgh chair of botany', Studies in the History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 36: 25–54

Examines Hooker's unsuccessful attempt to be appointed as Robert Graham's successor to the Edinburgh chair of botany.

Bellon, Richard (2006)

'Joseph Hooker Takes a “Fixed Post”: Transmutation and the “Present Unsatisfactory State of Systematic Botany”, 1844–1860', Journal of the History of Biology, 39: 1–39

Bellon's most significant contribution to Hooker studies (to date), which discusses why Hooker apparently delayed taking a position on the question of evolution (transmutation) until the publication of Darwin's Origin. (I have reached slightly different conclusions to Bellon's, which I discuss in my forthcoming book, Imperial Nature.)

Browne, E. J. (1979)

CR Darwin and JD Hooker: Episodes in the History of Plant Geography, 1840–1860. PhD thesis, School of History of Science and Technology. London, Imperial College, University of London.

Browne, J. (1978)

‘The Charles Darwin–Joseph Hooker correspondence: An analysis of manuscript sources and their use in biography’. (Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History 8: 351–66


Desmond, R. (1975)

‘The Hookers and the development of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.


Desmond, R. (1981)

‘Joseph Dalton Hooker’. Dictionary of Scientific Biography. C. C. Gillispie. (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons): 488–92


Desmond, R. (1999)

Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker: Traveller and Plant Collector. (Woodbridge, Suffolk, Antique Collector’s Club)

Probably the best recent biography. However, while its illustrations are superb, they do reduce the number of words Desmond has at his disposal, which forces him to deal rather briefly with some aspects of Hooker’s career.

Endersby, J. (2001)

‘Joseph Hooker: the making of a botanist’. (Endeavour 25 1): 3–7

A brief, popular introduction to Hooker with a few pictures.

Endersby, J. (2001)

‘“From having no Herbarium”. Local knowledge vs. metropolitan expertise: Joseph Hooker’s Australasian correspondence with William Colenso and Ronald Gunn’. Pacific Science (Vol. 55, No. 4: 343–358).

A discussion of the importance of herbarium building and the material culture of botanical collecting for understanding science in its colonial settings.

The full text is available for download (in Adobe Acobat/PDF format): if you have Acrobat, click here to read the paper, or you can download the free Acrobat reader from Adobe’s website.

Endersby, J. (2005)

'Classifying Sciences: systematics and status in mid-Victorian natural history'. In Daunton, M (ed) The Organisation of Knowledge in Victorian Britain (Oxford University Press): 61–86

This is a slightly "de-Hookerised" chapter from my PhD thesis, which explores the question of why classification was a low-status activity in Victorian natural history.

Endersby, J. (2008)

Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the practices of Victorian Science (University of Chicago Press).

This is the book of my PhD thesis, but much expanded and re-written.

Endersby, J. (2008)

‘Joseph Hooker: a philosophical botanist’. Journal of Biosciences (vol. 33, no. 2, June 2008): 163–169.

A short introductory piece about Hooker and his influence.

Huxley, L. (1918)

Life and Letters of Joseph Dalton Hooker. (Two volumes, London, John Murray)

A standard Edwardian “Life and Letters”, in that it’s sanitised, hagiographic and maddeningly old-fashioned in its careless failure to accurately identify its sources. It also boasts one of the most irritating indexes in the history of publishing. However, I’ve often had to check Leonard Huxley’s transcriptions of Hooker’s letters against the originals at Kew (usually to check the dates), and in every case I’ve found them accurate (apart from “cleaning-up” Hooker’s rather wayward punctuation). Still an important source.

Porter, D. (1993)

‘On the road to the Origin with Darwin, Hooker, and Gray’. (Journal of the History of Biology 26 1): 1–38

One of the most important recent articles on Hooker, which noted his central role in Darwin’s work and played a major role in establishing my own interest in Hooker.

Porter, D. M. (1980)

‘The vascular plants of Joseph Dalton Hooker’s “An enumeration of the plants of the Galapagos Archipelago; with descriptions of those which are new”‘. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.

Stevens, P. F. (1991)

‘George Bentham and the Kew Rule’. Improving the Stability of Names: needs and options. D. L. Hawksworth. (Königstein, Koeltz Scientific Books): 157–68

Looks at the way Hooker and Bentham established the ‘Kew Rule’ in an effort to centralise and stabilise taxonomy.

Stevens, P. F. (1997)

‘J.D. Hooker, George Bentham, Asa Gray and Ferdinand Mueller on Species Limits in Theory and Practice: a Mid-Nineteenth-Century Debate and Its Repercussions’. (Historical Records of Australian Science 11 3): 345–70

Key work on Hooker’s taxonomic practices, especially on the effects that working on dried specimens, far from the living plants, shaped Hooker’s approach to classification.

Turrill, W. B. (1953)

Pioneer Plant Geography: the Phytogeographical Researches of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker. (The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff)

Sadly out-of-print and hard to find, but a very useful compilation of extracts from some of Hooker’s key works on plant distribution.

Turrill, W. B. (1963)

Joseph Dalton Hooker: botanist, explorer and administrator. (London, Scientific Book Club)

The second biography of Hooker to appear. Turrill was a professional plant taxonomist and his work suffers a little from the standard faults of “practitioner history”, notably a tendency to make anachronistic judgements about the scientific value of Hooker’s work. Nevertheless, contains much useful information.

Williamson, M. (1984)

‘Sir Joseph Hooker’s Lecture on Insular Floras’. (Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 22: 55–77)

A reprint of Hooker’s lecture.

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Last updated 16/6/08

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