Sir David Prain

11 July 1857 - 16 March 1944

Botanist. Director of Kew Gardens

David Prain was born in Fettercairn and educated in the Parish School and Aberdeen Grammar School. He graduated from the University of Aberdeen (MA 1878, MB ChB (Hons) 1883). and became Demonstrator of Anatomy in Aberdeen under Dr John Struthers.

In 1884, he joined the Indian Medical Service, later seconded to the Royal Botanic Garden, Calcutta as Curator of the Herbarium and Librarian. In 1898 he became Director of the Botanical Survey of India. The Lhasa Expedition of 1903, gave him the opportunity to visit Khambajong in Tibet.

He retired from Indian service with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Between 1905 and 1922, he was Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

He served on numerous committees including the Royal Horticultural Society, the British Association, the Linnean Society, the British Science Guild, the Royal Society, the British Association, and the South-Eastern Union of Natural History Societies. In retirement, he was a Trustee of the British Museum and a member of the Council of the Zoological Society. 


Companion of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire
LLD (Edinburgh)

LLD (St Andrews)
FRSE (1888)

FRS (1905)

Knight of the Royal Swedish Order of the Polar Star (1908)

Barclay Memorial Medal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (1908)

CMG (1912)

Imperial Society of Knights-Bachelor (1912)
Commander of the Order of Leopold II (1909)

Obituary: Royal Society (including bibliography; Volume 4; Issue 13; 01 November 1944; pp 746-770)

Image by Walter Stoneman (1917) National Portrait Gallery Photographs Collection NPG x65622 (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Biography prepared from the nomination made by Dr M Williams to the University of Aberdeen 525 Alumni project.