Authorised form of namePetiver; James (c1663 - 1718); botanist and entomologist
Datesc1663 - 1718
Place of birthHillmorton, near Rugby, Warwickshire, England, Europe
Date of birth1663
Place of deathAldersgate Street, London, England, Europe
Date of death2 April 1718
Dates and placesBurial:
Chancel of St Botolph's Church, Aldersgate Street, London, England, Europe (10 April 1718)
Research fieldBotany
Rugby School; apprenticed to Charles Feltham, apothecary to St Bartholomew's Hospital, London; University of Leyden (1711)
Practised in London; corresponded with John Ray (FRS 1667) and many other naturalists; made a collection of several thousand plants; Apothecary to the Charterhouse (1700-1718); helped initiate 'The Monthly Miscellany; or, Memoirs for the Curious' (1707); Demonstrator of Plants to the Society of Apothecaries (1709); purchased Dr Hermann's museum in Leyden for Sir Hans Sloane (FRS 1685) (1711); Sloane purchased his collections of specimens, books and manuscripts after his death and they are now in the British Museum
Membership categoryFellow
Date of election27/11/1695
Royal Society activityRoyal Society roles:
Council: 1702-1709 (with intermittent breaks); 1716-1717
Other Royal Society activityPresented findings as well as correspondence on natural history to the Society (1690s)
RelationshipsParents: James Petiver and Mary Elborowe
Published worksRCN: 49950
General contextJohn Ray (FRS 1667) acknowledged Petiver's botanical expertise along with that of Petiver's friend Samuel Doody (FRS 1695) in his 1688 volume 'Historia Plantarum'. In the early 1690s, Petiver entered into a profitable correspondence with Samuel Browne, surgeon to the East India Company. Scottish surgeon James Cuninghame also proved to be an effective and productive collector for Petiver and sent speciments from China and Vietnam. Additionally, Petiver received specimens from John Smith, minister to the Royal African Company. His posthumous reputation as a collector was tarnished slightly by his close associate Sir Hans Sloane's (FRS 1685) complaint about the state of Petiver's collection, which reportedly delayed the production of Sloane's second volume of work on Jamaican flora and fauna. Petiver and Sloane were both associated with the informal botanical club which met at Temple Coffee House.
In his wide-ranging circle of correspondence, which included instructions to correspondents in Jamaica, for example, Petiver did systematise the use of enslaved people as collectors, though they remained uncredited.
Related imagesDiscover a selection of related images in our picture library
Bulloch's Roll; DNB; Innes Smith
Appleby, J H. 2003. 'The founding of St Petersburg in the context of the Royal Society's relationship with Russia', in Notes and Records, vol. 57, pp. 273-284
Armytage, W H G. 1954-5. 'The Royal Society and the Apothecaries', in Notes and Records, vol. 11, pp. 22-37
Delbourgo, J. 2017. 'Collecting the World: The Life and Curiosity of Hans Sloane' (Allen Lane)
Egerton, F N. 1970. 'Richard Bradley's Relationship with Sir Hans Sloane', in Notes and Records, vol. 25, pp. 59-77
Fontes da Costa, P. 2002. 'The Culture of Curiosity at The Royal Society in the first half of the eighteenth century', in Notes and Records, vol. 156, pp. 147-166
Ibanez, N et al. 2006. 'Plant material exchanged between James Petiver (ca.1663-1718) and Joan Salvador I Riera (1683-1725). I. The Balearic plants conserved in the BC-Salvador', in Notes and Records, vol. 60, pp. 241-248
Jarvis, C E and Coulton, R. 2020. 'A Chronology of the Life of James Petiver (ca 1663-1718)', in Notes and Records, vol. 74, pp. 183-187
There is some discrepancy within sources as to Petiver's year of birth. Hunter, as well as Jarvis and Coulton, have 1663, while ODNB estimates 1665.
Virtual International Authority File
Royal Society codeNA6857
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
EL/P1/100Letter, from Mr [James] Petiver [to the Royal Society]18 February 1696
RBO/8/63A further account of Nuce vomica from Father Camelli to John Ray and James Petiver1699
LBO/14/123Copy letter from Dr Alex Stewart, Leyden, to James Petiver30 June 1711
LBO/15/43Copy extract of a letter from Mr Walduck to James Petiver20 May 1714
MS/390/103Bond of James Petiver to the Treasurer of the Royal Society30 November 1695
EL/L4/39Translation of a letter, from Antoni van Leeuwenhoek to James Petiver1711
CLP/10i/35Letter, 'A description and figure of the true amomum or tugus' Reverend George Camelli [Georg Joseph Kamel] to John Ray and James Petiver[1698]
CLP/10i/41Paper, 'Storax liquida alias rosa mallas' by James Petiver[1707]
EL/W3/127Extract of a letter, from Thomas Walduck to James Petiver20 May 1714
EL/R1/55Letter, from Olaum Rudbeck senior and Olaum Rudbeck junior to James Petiver, dated at Uppsala3 April 1700
EL/L4/38Letter, from Antoni van Leeuwenhoek to James Petiver, dated at Delft18 August 1711
EL/T/67Letter, from John Thorpe to [James] Petiver, dated at University College, Oxon [Oxford]24 July 1704
EL/B2/46Letter, from Benjamin Bullivant to James Petiver, dated at Boston25 January 1698
CLP/10i/36Letter, 'A further and more exact account of the same' by Reverend George Camelli [Georg Joseph Kamel] to John Ray and James Petiver[1690s]
Add to My Items

    Collection highlights

    Browse the records of some of our collections, which cover all branches of science and date from the 12th century onwards. These include the published works of Fellows of the Royal Society, personal papers of eminent scientists, letters and manuscripts sent to the Society or presented at meetings, and administrative records documenting the Society's activities since our foundation in 1660.

    The Royal Society

    The Royal Society is a Fellowship of many of
    the world's most eminent scientists and is the
    oldest scientific academy in continuous existence.
    Registered charity number 207043

    Website design ©CalmView


    + 44 207 451 2500
    (Lines open Mon-Fri, 9:00-17:00. Excludes bank holidays)

    6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG

    Email Us →


    Subscribe to our newsletters to be updated with the
    latest news on innovation, events, articles and reports.

    Subscribe →

    © CalmView