John Bradbury (naturalist)

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John Bradbury (1768–1823) was a Scottish botanist noted for his travels in the United States Midwest and West in the early 19th Century and his eyewitness account of the New Madrid earthquake.

Bradbury was born near Stalybridge in Lancashire and worked in a cotton mil. He was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1792. While living in Manchester he petitioned the trustees of the Liverpool Botanic Garden (now called Wavertree Botanic Gardens) to fund a visit America to collect plants (with a provision that he would work on improving the supply of cotton from United States).[1]

In the United States he met with Thomas Jefferson in 1809 who recommended that he should base his investigations in St. Louis, Missouri rather than New Orleans, Louisiana.

While in St. Louis Bradbury explored the area and sent seeds back to Liverpool.

In 1811 he and naturalist Thomas Nuttall joined the Astor Expedition to find a faster overland route to Astoria, Oregon.

Bradbury did not stay with the Expedition all the way to Oregon but rather stayed with the group on the Missouri River to Montana before starting to return to New Orleans while documenting 40 new species of plants by sending seeds to his son. Some of Bradbury's plants were documented, without Bradbury's permission, by Frederick Traugott Pursh in Flora americae septentrionalis; or A Systematic Arrangement and Description of The Plants of North America ( ) (which is given various publication dates: 1813 or 1814.) Bradbury was "Deeply offended [by Pursh's purloining of his botanical specimens] and with his fame as a collector and discover of new plants stolen, Bradbury did little in botany after that." ( )

While Bradbury was returning from the Astor Expedition to New Orleans, Louisiana he was near at Chicksaw Bluffs (future site of Memphis, Tennessee on 16 December 1811, on the Mississippi River when the first of three earthquakes known as the New Madrid earthquake occurred.

His first person account is reported as the only eyewitness account of the earthquake from a person with a scientific background. He was to publish an account of his research in Travels in the interior of America, in the years 1809, 1810, 1811 which was published in 1817.

Bradbury had intended to return to England but the War of 1812 delayed the return and he was to study the states east of the Mississippi and published an appendix to his Travels book entitled Remarks on the States of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, with the Illinois and Western Territory, and on the Emigrations to Those Countries.[2]


  1. Competition - Retrieved 24 October 2007
  2. "The Old West: John Bradbury's Description of the Indians and Early White Settlers of Western America" - New York Times - 6 August 1904
  3. Author Query for 'J.Bradbury'. International Plant Names Index.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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