[Wikipedia: ‘Without Clayton’s knowledge, Gronovius used the material in his Flora Virginica (1739-1743.’]
So here’s a gift for Jan – he didn’t do it. He seems to have been a serious scholar, a friend of Carl Linnaeus and a correspondent of Clayton’s. When Clayton sent him a copy of his Flora Virginica, Gronovius thought he’d do Clayton a favor and translate it into Latin, though he published it with his own name prominently displayed.
John Clayton, an Englishman transplanted to the colonies, first shows up as the clerk of Gloucester County VA, a job he held for almost fifty years. Because the courthouse was burned by the British at the start of the Revolutionary War, there is very little information about him, aside from the date of his marriage to Elizabeth Whiting and the births of his five children. His personal plant collection was lost in the fire.
We do know he was a friend of John Bartram’s (cf. Context, Sept. 11); they corresponded for more than 20 years and Bartram described him as a “worthy, ingenious man.”
Clayton was also a friend of Mark Catesby’s, a naturalist, some of whose drawings are shown here. Catesby is known for his Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, published from 1731 to 1743. Catesby had come to Virginia to visit his sister in Williamsburg and was instantly taken with the flora and fauna of the New World.
These men, and others like them, were founding fathers in another sense – they were the scientists, botanists, naturalists, who recorded the unknown world around them for posterity and shared it with their counterparts in Europe. The plants Clayton sent to Gronovius – the only part of his work that survives – have become the John Clayton Herbarium at the Natural History Museum in London.