DR. WILLIAM BALDWIN, son of Thomas Baldwin, a respectable member of the Society of Freinds, and an approved minister in that society, was born in Newlin Township, this county, March 29, 1778. He received no other than the common English education afforded by the country schools of that day, but he evinced at an early age an eager desire for knowledge, and as one of the readiest models of gratifying that desire became a teacher of a country school in the vicinity of his birthplace. After some time spent in that arduous vocation he turned his attention to the profession of medicine. He accordingly became the pupil of Dr. William A. Toss, then a popular practitioner of medicine in Downingtown, Pa. While a resident there he became acquainted with Dr. Moses Marshall, --who was a scholar and botanist, and had materially assisted his uncle, Humphry Marshall, both in the establishment of his botanical garden at Marshallton and in the preparation of his work on American forest-trees and shrubs, -- which first awakened in young Baldwin a taste for the study of plants, and led him to become a sagacious and enthusiastic botanist. While waiting for the means to obtain a diploma he made a voyage to China as surgeon of a merchant-ship, and on his return received the degree of Doctor of Medicine.

Being thus inaugurated in the profession, he soon after married and took up his residence in Wilmington, DE, where his researches in the vegetable kingdom attracted the notice of Rev. Dr. Muhlenberg, of Lancaster, Pa.,and opened the way for an instructive and delightful correspondence with that eminent botanist.

Dr. Baldwin's health was always frail. A predisposition to pulmonary consumption pervaded all his father's family, and finally swept away every member of it. In the autum of 1811 the doctor was induced to seek a refuge from our Northern winters in the State of Georgia. During the war of 1812-15 he was appointed a surgeon in the United States Navy, and was stationed chiefly at the seaports of Savannah and St. Mary's. All his leisure time was devoted to the exploration of the botany of that region and in contributing to the valuable "Southern Flora" of the accomplished Stephen Elliott. A genus of plants belonging to the Southern Compositae was named Baldwinia by Mr. Nuall, --" as a just tribute for the talents and energy of William Baldwin, M.D., a gentleman whose botanical zeal and knowledge have rarely been excelled in America." His researches were industriously pushed in the wildreness among the Southern Indians, and extended into East Florida as far as St. Augustine.

Dr. Baldwin's reputation as a botanist induced the government, in 1817, to apppoint him to accompany the commissioners to Buenos Aires and other South American ports, to ascertain the conditions and prospects of the Spanish colonists. He went as surgeon of the ship "Congress", and the prominent incidental object of his appointment was to investigate the vegetable productions of the places which might be visited. In the preformance of this collateral duty, notwithstanding the feeble state of his health, he was most assiduous and eminently successful.

On his return from South America, he was selected to accompany, as surgeon and botanist, Major Long's expedition up the Missouri River.

This page updated on February 26, 2009