William Carey as a boy displayed a passionate interest in his surroundings, particularly in plants and animals. If he had set his heart obtaining any particular flower or insect for his collection, he was careless of dirt or discomfort to get it. Hid bedroom was filled with specimens, with birds and insects both alive and dead, which also indicate that his mother must have shown commendable tolerance of her son’s enthusiasm.
Early years of Life
The boy who from eight to fourteen’ chose to read books of science, history, voyages, etc., more than others, the youth whose gardener uncle taught the tricks of his trade, the shoemaker – preacher who made a garden around every cottage in which he lived, become a scientific observer from the day he landed at Calcutta, and agricultural reformer from the year he first built a wooden farmhouse in the jungle.
Carey’s sister had commented about his keen sense of observation, “He never walked out, I think, when quite a boy, without observation on the hedges as he passed; and when he took up a plant of any kind he always observed it with care.His room was full of insects that he might observe that progress.”
Carey knew that nature is worthy of study. Carey pointed out that even the insects are worthy of attention. They are not souls in bandage bu creatures with a God-given purpose.
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Life over the years for William
On his arrival in Bengal, he had opened up books of observation. He had separate books for every distinct class, birds, beasts, fishes, reptiles etc. With the intention of transmitting them to Europe in future, he had thrived to make these collections of minute observations. He was an erudite botanist. In India he continued with his botanical interests, putting his heart and soul into getting and growing plants. He had a huge, beautiful garden of which he was justly proud. He writes to a friend, “I am passionately fond of nature and that I relax my mind from pursuits of a more laborious kind by attending thereto. My museum and garden are therefore not the only sources of pleasure but of health to me.”
His youngest son Jonathan writes about his father’s power of observation and natural curiosity for all God’s creation.He says, “In objects of nature my father was exceedingly curious. His collection of mineral ores and other objects of natural history were extensive and obtained his particular attention in seasons of leisure on recreation. The science of botany was a constant delight on the study, and his fondness for his garden remind the last. No one was allowed to interfere in the arrangements of his favorite retreat, and it is here he enjoyed his most pleasant moments of the secret of devotion and meditation. The arrangements made by him were on the Linnaean system, and to disturb the bed or border of his garden was to touch the apple of his eye. He has the best and rarest botanical collections of plants in the East, to the extension of which by his correspondence with persons of eminence in Europe and other parts of the world his attention was constantly directed and in return he supplied he correspondents with rare collections from the East. It was painful to the observer with what distress my father quitted this scene of his enjoyments, when extreme weakness, during his last illness, prevented his going to his favorite retreat. Often when was unable to walk, he was drawn into the garden in a chair placed on a board with four wheels”.
He edited three volumes of his friend William Roxburgh’s Flora Indica which is a standard work with botanists. In the title page of this major publication, he wrote, ‘All thy praise thee, O Lord’-David.
His five-acre Botanical garden in Serampore had trees like Eucalyptus, Mahogany, Deodar, Teak, and Tamarind. These trees were unknown in Calcutta.By June 1800, Just six months after arriving in Serampore, he was to tell William Roxburgh, his friend, of the 427 species of plants he had in his garden. For more than half a century it was unique of its kind in Southern Asia.
Carey was the first man in India to write essays on forestry. Fifty years before the government made its first attempts at forest conservation, Carey was already practicing conservation, plating and cultivating timber.
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The Agri-Horticultural society
Carey’s mind was always occupied by what he could do for his neighbor.” love thy neighbor as thyself.” To bring more comfort to the peasants around him, their health better secured, their general happiness promoted, an Agricultural and Horticulture society was proposed to be set up. On 15th April 1820, the prospectus for the formation of Agricultural and Horticultural society was issued from the mission house, Serampore. On 14th Sept, the first meeting was held in Townhall, Calcutta. Besides Carey, Marshman, and Ward, three Europeans attended. Natives, as well as Europeans, were requested to co-operate. The society became speedily popular. In the first eighty-seven years of its existence, seven thousands of the best men in India have been its members, of whom seven hundred are Asians.
In 1842, The Agri-Horticultural society resolved to honor its founder. A marble bust of William Carey was to be placed in the society’s building at Metcalfe hall, for his great and important services, for unceasingly applying his great talents, abilities, and influence in advancing the happiness if India-more especially by the improved system of husbandry and gardening.