Frank Kingdon-Ward was born in Manchester in 1885. He was strictly brought up by his father, a lecturer in botany, and was sent to convent school in France at the age of four. He went to Christ's College Cambridge on a science exhibition in 1904, but his anticipated academic career was cut short by the death of his father. The family was left in financial difficulty and Frank had to leave university after only two years.
Kingdon-Ward took a teaching post in Shanghai, then in 1909 joined an American zoological expedition to the borders of Tibet. He was passionately taken with an ambition to become a professional plant collector, and took a commission with Arthur Bulley on a year-long trip to the mountains of south-west China in 1911. The trip was very successful, and he returned to the eastern Himalyas in 1913-14. However, he was asked to move on by the Chinese authorities, so he went to Burma, Assam and Tibet. This proved fortuitous as these areas were relatively undiscovered and yielded a whole host of new species. World War 1 interrupted his botanic studies, but he returned to his travels after the war. On his fifth expedition, in 1924-5, he collected 97 different rhododendrons and the first viable seed of the blue poppy.
He married twice, first in 1923 to Florinda Norman-Thompson, for whom he named Primula florinda. The couple had very little in the way of common interests and they divorced in 1937. In 1947 he married Jean Macklin, who was keen to join his expeditions. The couple made five trips together, and proved an ideal partnership. Lilium mackliniae was named for his second wife. Kingdon-Ward struggled financially, despite his great reputation and recognised success. He died of a stroke in 1958, still planning another Asian trip.
Kingdon-Ward was awarded the Royal Geographical Society founder's medal in 1930 and the Royal Horticultural Society's Victoria medal of honour (1932) and Veitch memorial medal (1936).
Allen, D.E., ‘Ward, Francis [Frank] Kingdon- (1885-1958)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2006) [ accessed 25 June 2009]