John Lindley: the reluctant palaeobotanist
John Lindley (1799–1865) is best known among palaeobotanists for having written, together with William Hutton, the three volumes of The Fossil Flora of Great Britain (1831–1837; published by James Ridgeway, London). He only published three other works on fossil plants, two short appendices on European Tertiary material and a list of fossil plants from the Culm of Devon. The Fossil Flora served to catalogue many of the fossil plants recognized by the 1830s from Britain, ranging in age from Carboniferous to Pleistocene. Together with contributions from Henslow, Murray and Williamson, Lindley and Hutton described, illustrated and, in some cases, emended almost 300 species, with many of their type and figured specimens having survived. By giving the first illustrated account of the microscopic structure of a fossil cuticle together with discussions about the origin of coal, prehistoric climates, experimental taphonomy and plant evolution The Fossil Flora was much more than a catalogue of fossil plants. Although orchidology, his work at University College London and numerous other activities came to fill his time after finishing The Fossil Flora, John Lindley must surely rank amongst his palaeobotanical contemporaries for having pioneered aspects of the science that remain topics of active research into the third millennium.