Nathaniel Wallich was born in Copenhagen in 1786 and died in London in 1854. In 1806 he obtained the diploma of the Royal Academy of Surgeons at Copenhagen and was subsequently appointed Surgeon to the Danish settlement at Serampore, in Bengal. He sailed for India in April 1807 and arrived at Serampore in the following November after a long sea voyage around the African Cape. From 1817 he took a permanent post as Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden, and travelled widely in the Indian subcontinent. Wallich published two major works on the plants of the region, Tentamen Flora Nepalensis Illustratae (1824-26) and Plantae Asiaticae Rariories (1830-32), however, his greatest contribution to botany was the fostering and assistance he offered to the many plant hunters who stopped in Calcutta on their way to the Himalayas.
The Herbarium of the Honourable East India Company, better known as the 'Wallich Herbarium' (K-W), is the largest separate herbarium at Kew. The nucleus of the collection is formed from specimens obtained by Nathaniel Wallich on his travels and is rich in material from the Indian subcontinent. Additions from many other collectors contributed much material including some from outside of the Indo-Malesian region. The collection numbers 9149 'species' arranged in a systematic order up to a point, often represented by material from several localities, and a total of 20,500 gatherings.
Kew specimens of the Wallich Herbarium are mounted on extra large sheets and are not sent on loan. An unpublished catalogue is available to aid collection consultation. All of Wallich's names are counted as nomina nuda , except where published elsewhere by him or other botanists. The palm genus Wallichia was dedicated to him by Roxburgh.
A full set of his collections is deposited in the Central National Herbarium of the Botanical Survey of India in Calcutta (CAL), and duplicates of the Herbarium were widely distributed to many other institutions.
The list of people who worked on the material in the Herbarium is extensive and includes Lindley, Griffith, Bentham, Wight, Graham, Brown, David Don, Greville, Haworth, the Hookers, Nees von Essenbeck, Besser, Boungniart, Choisy, Adrien de Jussieu and Andersson. David Don produced the Prodromus Florae Nepalensis based on duplicates he received and the observations of many were included by A. de Candolle in the Prodromus Systematis Universalis Regni Vegetabilis .
D. J. Nicholas Hind, RBG, Kew