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Richard Anthony Salisbury FRS (May 2, 1761 - 1829) was a British botanist. He was born in Leeds, England, the son of Richard Markham. He changed his last name to Salisbury following a supposed financial arrangement for support in his studies. This arrangement was claimed to have been made with a Mrs. Anna Salisbury, related by marriage to his grandmother, but this was apparently a fiction.

He married Caroline Staniforth in 1796. Only one child, Eleanor, was born to the couple, in 1797. The two separated shortly thereafter. Apparently Salisbury had misrepresented his finances to Caroline when he had proposed marriage. By the times of his daughter's birth, he was deeply, hopelessly in debt. He was subsequently arrested for his financial misrepresentations. He apparently recovered financially by 1802, when he bought a house.

Salisbury violently opposed the Linnean system, which led others to ignore his work. As a result, he published a manuscript in 1809 under the name of a friend, Joseph Knight, entitled On the cultivation of the plants belonging to the natural order of Proteeae, which contained only 13 pages related to cultivation techniques, but over 100 pages of taxonomic revision. However, it turned out that the work had nonetheless freely plagiarised the work of yet another botanist (Brown) who was at odds with Salisbury. Salisbury had memorised the plant names from Robert Brown's reading of his On the Proteaceae of Jussieu to the Linnean Society of London in the first quarter of 1809, which was subsequently published in March 1810. Knight and Salisbury thus beat Brown to print and claimed priority for the names that Brown had authored.

As a result Salisbury was accused of plagiarism, ostracised from botanical circles, and his publications were largely ignored during his lifetime. Samuel Goodenough wrote:

"How shocked was I to see Salisbury's surreptitious anticipation of Brown's paper on New Holland plants, under the name and disguise of Mr. Hibbert's gardener! Oh it is too bad!".

Robert Brown himself wrote of Salisbury:

I scarcely know what to think of him except that he stands between a rogue and a fool.

Although Salisbury's generic names have almost all been overturned, many of his specific names have been reinstated; since the nominal author was Knight, not Salisbury, Knight is now considered the author of a great many Proteaceae species.

Salisbury was known as a man who was difficult to get along with, and was shunned by many botanists of his day. Nonetheless, he was himself a meticulous botanist who contributed significantly to the science.

Published works

  • Icones Stirpium rariorum, 1787
  • Prodromus Stirpium in horto ad Chapel Allerton, 1796
  • Disaertatio botanica de Erica, 1800
  • Genera of Plants, 1866, edited by J. E. Gray.




Up to date as of January 23, 2010
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