The son of a prosperous nurseryman in Fulham, London, Burchell was educated at Raleigh House Academy in Surrey. He worked at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and at his father’s Fulham Nursery. He became one of the youngest fellows of the Linnean Society in 1803, aged just 22.
1805 - 1810 St. Helena
Burchell lived on St. Helena, where, after an abortive commercial venture, he was appointed the island's schoolmaster and later superintendent of the botanic garden.
Burchell undertook an extensive four-year trek of about 7000 km through southern Africa. He collected approximately 63 000 botanical and 3000 zoological specimens; 110 geological specimens; about 150 anthropological artefacts, and produced 500 drawings and paintings.
Burchell was engaged in horticulture, planting many of the 2000 different seeds and 276 bulbs he had brought from South Africa. He wrote his Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa, which included a landmark map of the country; the two-volume work was published in 1822 and 1824 respectively. The book covered his journey from Cape Town to Litakun but ended in August 1812. Additional planned volumes never appeared.
Burchell travelled extensively in the north-eastern region. He collected even more specimens than in South Africa, mainly plants and insects. He also produced about 250 drawings and paintings: many reflecting local architecture and panoramas. He did not write a book about his Brazilian journey.
Burchell spent the remainder of his life cataloguing his enormous collections. He also was appointed to the council of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and awarded an honorary DCL (Doctor of Civil Laws) by Oxford University. Burchell became increasingly isolated from society and even colleagues in science. He produced virtually no more art or publications. He committed suicide in his eighty-third year.
A new book on the great naturalist and explorer, William Burchell, who traveled extensively in southern Africa. Our illustrated book reveals the narrative and natural history discoveries of his unpublished return journey (1812-1815), from the south-eastern Kalahari to Cape Town via the mouth of the Great Fish River.
CLIVIA WONDERS habitat is located near Burchell's discovery of Clivias. We have brought together and cultivated some of the most valuable and exquisite specimens in a quest to be the premier Clivia resource.