William Carey


Founder of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India


In the West, one of the least reported facts about William Carey is his contribution to Indian agriculture and horticulture.  Within India, however, Carey's reputation as a leading figure in these areas is eminent.  Carey holds the position of having been the founder of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India in 1820 and its president, 1824-1826.  The Society continues to give prominence to Carey in its ongoing development, history, and heritage.


At the right is an image of the sculpted bust that resides in Metcalfe Hall in the Agri-Horticultural Society of India, Kolkata.  Dedicated in 1842 from the recommendation of Carey's friend, Dr. Nathaniel Wallich, the bust reads, "William Carey, D.D., Founder of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India."


In 1820, Carey published an essay presenting reasons  for the establishment of an Agricultural Society in India.  His purpose centered upon the "development and promotion of agriculture and horticulture in India."  At the establishment on September 14, 1820, Carey and four other Europeans (including Joshua Marshman) established the Society, but by October 23, 1820, over fifty persons had joined the Society, and Lord Hastings agreed to become the Society's patron.  Lady Hastings had been a longtime supporter of Carey's interest in agriculture and horticulture.  Now, almost two hundred years old, the society has a long and distinguished history in Indian culture.  Of the fifty members in October, 1820, half were Europeans and half were native Indians.  In the conclusion of his founding essay, Carey remarked,


It is peculiarly desirable that Native Gentlemen should be eligible as members of the Society, because one of its chief objects will be the improvement of their estates, and of the peasantry which reside thereon.  They should therefore not only be eligible as members, but also as officers of the Society in precisely the same manner as Europeans.


According to George Smith, the late nineteenth century biographer of Carey, Carey's devotion to science applied to Indian theological students as much as anyone else.  Smith reports,


Dr. Staughton had written from America that the interest on the funds raised there by Ward for the College would not be sent until the trustees were assured that the money was not to be spent on the teaching of science in the College, but only on the theological education of Hindoo converts. "I must confess," was Carey's reply, "I never heard anything more illiberal.  Pray can youth be trained up for the Christian ministry without science?  Do you in America train up youths for it without any knowledge of science?" 

[George Smith, The Life of William Carey, Shoemaker and Missionary, (London: Murray, 1887), pp. 327-28.]


Following below are two presentations of Carey's essay advocating the establishment of an agricultural and horticultural society in India.  Carey drafted the essay originally in April, 1820.  Some of the important purposes Carey envisaged for the Society included:


1) the improvement of the land, by encouraging a superior mode of cultivation,

2) the best method of properly cropping land and the best rotations of crops,

3) the introduction of new and useful plants,

4) the improvement of implements of husbandry,

5) an attempt to improve animal stock,

6) the bringing of waste lands into a state of cultivation.


William Carey

"Address respecting an Agricultural Society in India."

The Friend of India

(Quarterly Series)

No. I.  September, 1820

Serampore: Printed at the Mission Press, 1820.

p. 50    p. 51    p. 52    p. 53    p. 54    p. 55    p. 56    p. 57    p. 58    p. 59


William Carey

"Appendix.  Prospectus of an Agricultural and Horticultural Society in India."

Transactions of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India

Volume 1

Serampore, 1829.

p. i    p. ii    p. iii    p. iv    p. v    p. vi    p. vii    p. viii    p. ix    p. x    p. xi    p. xii    p. xiii



Related to Carey's horticultural interests, Dr. William Roxburgh, Superintendent of the [Indian] Botanic Garden, Calcutta, 1793-1813, and Carey's dear friend, named the Saul tree for Carey, Careya arborea.  After Roxburgh's death, Carey completed, edited, and published Roxburgh's Flora Indica Another flower named in honor of Carey is Bulbophyllum careyanum




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Created:    July 23, 2003        Updated:    February 22, 2012