Miles Joseph Berkeley (1803 - 1899) - a brief biography

Miles Joseph Berkeley - Public Domain image

Generally accepted as the founder of British mycology, Miles Joseph Berkeley was born on 1st April 1803 at Biggin Hall, near Oundle, in Northamptonshire. He was educated at Oundle and then Rugby School before entering Christ's College, Cambridge. He was awarded a BA in 1825 and an MA in 1828. He was ordained in 1826. (A disproportionate number of medics, clerics and lawyers became botanists and mycologists of note - perhaps this says something about the working hours of these professions in those far-off days.)

Berkeley's work as a vicar near Market Harborough left him time to become a leading authority on lichens, fungi systematics and plant pathology, although he had a broad interest in many aspects of the natural world.

Miles Joseph Berkeley died at Sibbertoft, near Market Harborough, on 30 July 1889 at the age of 86.

The abbreviation Berk. is used to indicate Miles Joseph Berkeley as the author when citing a botanical or mycological name.

Positions and Awards

Vicar of Sibbertoft, 1868 until his death in 1899

Honorary fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge, 1883

Fellow of the Royal Society, 1879

Awarded the Royal Society's Royal Medal (also known as the Queen's Medal) in 1863.

Member of the Academy of Sciences of Sweden.

Major Mycological Works

In addition to a major contribution on native British fungi in Sir William Hooker's British Flora (1836), Miles Joseph Berkeley is best known for:

Introduction to Cryptogamic Botany (1857)

Outlines of British Fungology (1860)

Together with British mycologist Christopher Edmund Broome (1812 - 1886), over a period of 37 years Miles Joseph Berkeley published a series of 'Notices of British Fungi' in which some 550 new species were described.

Selected Sources:

Brief Biographies of British Mycologists; Geoffrey C. Ainsworth (Edited by John Webster and David Moore); BMS 1996.

Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2007 [e-book]. ISBN 0-684-31559-9.

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