natstand logo

Babington, Charles Cardale (1808 - 1895)


Biographical notes

Charles Cardale Babington was among the most eminent botanists of his time and spent virtually his whole life at St John's College, Cambridge, which he entered as an undergraduate and progressed to become a Professor of Botany, the successor to Professor Henslow, in 1861.
He was a member of a large, affluent and influential family which included landowners, clergmen, members of Parliament and political thinkers. Several of his relative were also interested in, and active in, aspects of natural history. Although primarily known as a botanist, he had earier shown a strong interest in entomology, sharing a passion for beetles with Charles Darwin who was a Cambridge undergraduate around the same time as Babington. He retained a keen interest in antiquarian matters throughout his life but an early interest in phrenology (c.f. H. C. Watson) fortunately waned.
He was a member of the Botanical Exchange Club and the Edinburgh Botanical Society. His personal herbarium is preserved at Cambridge University CGE.
Only a selection of his more significant publications are given in the following table, a more complete bibliography is given in "Memorials" - see the Links - from which the portrait is taken.
1808 November 23 : Birth Charles Cardale, son of Joseph and Catharine Babington, was baptised at Ludlow, Shropshire, on 1809 January 18.
1826 : Cambridge He matriculated at St John's College in the Michaelmas term.
1830 : Linnean Society Elected as a fellow of the Linnean Society. His Journal records that he paid his "life composition as F.L.S." on November 2.
1833 May :
Entomological Society
Babington is generally credited as being among the founding members of the Entomological Society of London - later to become the Royal Entomological Society. He certainly appears in the early membership lists (as do Charles Darwin and Edwin Lees) marked as an original member but he does not appear to have played any part in the founding of the Society or to have attended the first meetings.
1834 January 1 : Publication Flora Bathoniensis
[Google Books]
1835 November 17 : Geological Society His Journal records that he dined with Professor Sedgwick before being proposed as a Fellow of the Geological Society.
1837 : The Ray Club He was among the founding members of this Cambridge University club which was to be "... a society for the cultivation of Natural Science by means of friendly intercourse and mutual instruction'."
1839 : Publication Primitæ Floræ Sarnicæ; or an Outline of the Flora of The Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, and Serk. London
[Google Books]
1843 : Publication Manual of British Botany
Many editions of this work, which became a standard botanical reference, were brought out over the following decades. The link given is to the 4th edition from 1851. [Biodiversity Heritage Library]
1851 June 19 :
Royal Society
Babington was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society.
1860 : Publication Flora of Cambridge or A Catalogue of Plants found in the County of Cambridge. London.
[Biodiversity Heritage Library]
1861 June 12 :
Elected as Professor of Botany in the University of Cambridge
St. John's College, Cambridge,
May 14th, 1861

Sir, - I beg leave to announce myself as a candidate for the Professorship of Botany, which is now vacant, and venture to hope for your favourable consideration, chiefly on account of my having made that science an especial subject of study during the most part of my long residence in the University. I strongly feel the inferiority of my qualifications when compared with those of my deeply lamented friend, Professor Henslow, who posessed in a pre-eminent degree the power of teaching the science and of creating a permanent interest in it amongst his hearers. Should I have the honour to be appointed the successor of so eminent a man, it will be my constant endeavour to fulfil the duties of the office in as efficient a manner as possible. - I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient servant, CHARLES C. BABINGTON, M.A.
1866 April 3 : Marriage 1Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette: 1866 April 5
 MARRIAGES. - April 3, at Walcot Church, Bath, by the Rev. S.E. Bernard, A.M., uncle of the bride, assisted by the Rev. T.D. Bernard, A.M., rector of Walcot, Chas. Cardale Babington, Esq., M.A., F.R.S., Professor of Botany in the University of Cambridge, to Anna Maria, eldest daughter of the late John Walker, Esq., of the Civil Service, Madras.
1874 : Publication History of the Chapel of St. John's College, Cambridge
1882 October : Fellowship Elected to a professorial fellowship at St John's College, Cambridge.
1895 July 22 : Death 1Northampton Mercury: 1895 July 26
  Professor Charles Cardale Babington died at Cambridge, on Monday morning, aged 86. He was a son of the late Rev. Joseph Babington and grandson of Mr. Thomas Babington, of Rothley Temple, Leicestershire. He was born at Ludlow, and was educated at St. John's College. He was appointed Professor of Botany, and was elected to a Professorial Fellowship at St, John's College in October, 1882. He was well known as a naturalist. Among his works were "Flora Bathoniensis," "The Flora of the Channel Islands," a "Manual of British Botany," "Flora of Cambridgeshire," as well as a "History of the Chapel of St. John's College, Cambridge," which he published 1874. He contributed also a number of papers to the publications of the Cambridge Antiquarian and other societies. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, of the Society of Antiquaries, and of other societies.

1 Transcription reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive

Managed by Richard Middleton; last updated 2016 February 18


1808 Ludlow, Shropshire
1810 (about) Spaw-place, Humberston-gate, Leicester
1814 Hawksworth, Nottinghamshire
1817 July 28 Needwood Parsonage, Staffordshire
1821 Charterhouse School
1823 33 Grosvenor Place, Bath
1826 October St John's College, Cambridge
1841 June St John's College, Cambridge (census)
1861 April St John's College, Cambridge (census)
1871 April 5 Trumpington Road, Cambridge (census)
1881 April 5 Brookside, Cambridge (census)
1891 April 5 Brookside, Cambridge (census)



Additional links

Annotated tree of his large and complex family. link
herbaria@home provides a useful analysis of his specimens from a range of Herbaria. link
WIKISOURCE provides a transcription of C.C. Babington's entry in the 1901 supplement to the Dictionary of National Biography. link
Memorials Journal and Botanical Correspondence (1897) edited by his widow Anna Maria [Internet Archive] link
Creative Commons Licence

natstand is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.