Withering, William, 1741-1799
Botanical arrangement of all the vegetables naturally growing in Great Britain. An arrangement of British plants: according to the latest improvements of the Linæan system: to which is prefixed, an easy introduction to the study of botany.
Birmingham : Printed for the author, by M. Swinney ; sold by G.G. & J. Robinson and B. & J. White, London, 1796.
This enormous compilation is the greatest work of William Withering who was a busy and successful clinician in the Midlands. On the basis of his botanical expertise he was in a position to investigate the use of the foxglove in country remedies for dropsy. He chose to base his botanical classification on the then novel Linnaean principles and to conduct his investigation in a systematic experimental way. Both are attributable to his membership of the famous Lunar Society in Birmingham where he associated with Boulton, Watt, Erasmus Darwin, Priestly and other leaders of the industrial revolution. Like the others Withering was active in politics, and he was also accomplished mineralogist. Unfortunately his publication on the use of digitalis sparked acrimonious comments from Erasmus Darwin who claimed priority, though this was probably a retrospective interpretation of their Lunar Club discussions.