John Hutton Balfour

John Hutton Balfour ( born September 15, 1808 in Edinburgh, † February 11, 1884 Edinburgh) was a British physician and botanist. Its official botanical author abbreviation is " Balf. ".


Born in Edinburgh in 1808, John Hutton Balfour visited in his home town, the Royal High School. He then studied at the University of St Andrews and the University of Edinburgh, where he graduated with graduation as Master of Arts and in 1832 as a doctor of medicine. In the same year he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh ( Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh). Although he originally abstrebte an ecclesiastical office, he opened a medical practice in 1834 in Edinburgh.

He was given his interest in botany and his growing botanical knowledge in 1836 co-founded the Botanical Society of Edinburgh ( Botanical Society of Edinburgh ) and 1838 of the Botanical Society ( Botanical Club ). After he had been since 1840 lectures in botany, he got in 1841 a professor of botany at the University of Glasgow. In 1845 he was appointed professor of botany at the University of Edinburgh, Head of the Royal Botanical Gardens ( Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh ) and the Royal botanist for Scotland ( Queen's botanist for Scotland ) appointed. Under his aegis of the Royal Botanical Garden was enlarged and built up a palm garden, a rock garden, an arboretum and a museum.

Balfour was known as a gifted teacher and experimenter, who took up like findings of other scientific disciplines. So he responded to James Young Simpson's experiments with anesthetics for people by examining the response of plants to anesthetics with his students. Because of his energetic leadership on botanical excursions, he received the nickname " wood fiber" (woody fiber ).

Balfour spent 30 years as dean of the medical faculty in Edinburgh and taught as the first professor of medicine his students in microscopy. There he discovered a later disease named after him, the " Balfoursche disease" ( Balfour 's disease ), a particular form of leukemia that is associated with multiple bone tumors. However, his numerous publications during the years 1862 to 1875 relate exclusively to botanical themes.

Balfour maintained a lively correspondence with many contemporary scientists, as well as with Charles Darwin, for whom he wrote an obituary after his death. In addition to many of their own publications, he also contributed to the chapter Botany, eighth edition in the Encyclopædia Britannica. After his retirement in 1879, he retired into private life.

John Hutton Balfour's son, Isaac Bayley Balfour (1853-1922), also studied botany. When he was also director of the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, he continued his father's work and walked to the botanical garden in one of the largest botanical gardens in the world.


  • John Hutton Balfour was appointed by all three universities with which he had been in contact, the University of St Andrews, the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh, an Honorary Doctor of Law ( LLD).
  • The University of Edinburgh award a named after John Hutton Balfour price of Botany (The Hutton Balfour Prize for Botany ).
  • One of his students, James Hector, appointed in 1859 a 3272 m high mountain in the Canadian Rockies ( Yoho National Park, British Columbia) by John Hutton Balfour: Balfour Mount.

Activity as a botanist

One of the first described by Balfour plants belong Cephalocroton socotranus, the Calabar bean ( Physostigma venenosum ) and Jeffrey pine ( Pinus jeffreyi ).


To him, the genus of plants Balfourodendron the rue family ( Rutaceae ) was named in honor.

In the following species the epithet is named after Balfour:

  • Foxtail Pine ( Pinus balfouriana ) S.Watson
  • Salix balfouriana C.K.Schneid.
  • Tinus balfouriana Kuntze

Writings (selection )

  • Class book of botany. , 1852.
  • Outlines of botany. In 1854.
  • The plants of the Bible. new ed 1866.
  • Elements of botany for schools. , 1869.
  • Introduction to the study of palaeontological botany. In 1872.
  • A manual of botany. 5th edition 1875.
  • Botany and religion. 4th Edition, 1882.