James Lee was a Scottish nurseryman, botanist and author active, particularly in Middlesex, England, in the 18th century.
Lee is perhaps best known for the first English translation of Linnaeus's Philosophia Botanica, which he published in 1760 under the title of Introduction to Botany (10th edition 1810). He later published Rules for Collecting and Preserving Seeds from Botany Bay around 1787 and contributed to William Aiton's Hortus Kewensis in 1789. Lee was born in Selkirk, Scotland in 1715 and may have been educated there at grammar school. In terms of his early career, Lee may have started at the Chelsea Physic Garden working under Philip Miller. He was later installed as gardener at Syon House, near Brentford in Middlesex and then at Whitton in Middlesex. In about 1745 Lee, along with Lewis Kennedy (died 1782), founded the Vineyard nursery in Hammersmith, Middlesex, a firm specializing in exotic plants and employing plant and seed collectors in South Africa, Australia and the Americas. By 1774 they issued a plant catalogue to which even the then American President, Thomas Jefferson was a subscriber.
Lee died in Hammersmith on 25 July 1795. His nursery, however, continued well into the 1890's having been taken over and run by both his, and his wife Martha's (died 1779), surviving children as well as those of the Kennedys. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the second edition of Aiton's Hortus Kewensis, published between 1810 and 1813, lists one hundred and thirty five plants first introduced into England, or first cultivated by the Vineyard nursery, during Lee's lifetime.
Hadfield, Miles, et. al., British Gardeners: A Biographical Dictionary (London: A. Zwemmer, 1980), pp. 179-180.
Harvey, John H., ' A Scottish Botanist in London in 1766', Garden History, 9:1 (Spring, 1981), pp. 40-75.
Jackson, B.D., ‘Lee, James (1715-1795)', rev. Anne Pimlott Baker, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) [accessed 27 December 2007]
Symes, Michael, Alison Hodges and John Harvey, 'The Plantings at Whitton', Garden History, 14: 2 (Autumn, 1986), pp. 138-172.
Willson, Eleanor Joan, James Lee and the Vineyard Nursery, Hammersmith (Hammersmith: Hammersmith Local History Group, 1961)