James Robb was born in Laurencekirk, Scotland on February 2nd, 1815. He attended the University of St Andrews and the University of Edinburgh for medicine. After graduation, he did not regularly practice medicine but came to Fredericton in 1837 for a position as professor of chemistry and natural history at King’s College (now University of New Brunswick). He taught anatomy, botany, chemistry, geology, mineralogy, physiology, and zoology. He married Ellen Maria Coster, who was the daughter of the president of the college, on December 17th, 1840.During his time at King’s College Robb made many contributions to the museum he created at the college. He made many collecting trips in the province and was the first person in the province to attempt a systematic botanical collection. Robb was a professor at the college for only 24 years, and died from pneumonia on April 2nd, 1861 at the age of 46.Further information regarding Robb, including a biography from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, can be found on the UNB Libraries website and within the UNB Libraries as well as on the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick website.
Robb wrote a book called “Agricultural Progress: An Outline of the Course of Improvement in Agriculture Considered as a Business, an Art, and a Science, with Special Reference to New Brunswick.” This book discusses land use, agriculture, land tenure and it is 71 pages long. A copy of this book can be found online on the UNB libraries website.
Robb also delivered many orations to the college council during his time as a professor at the college. Copies of these can be found in the James Robb folder, on the UNB Libraries website, and within the UNB Libraries. There is also a letter of correspondence between Robb and Asa Gray located in the James Robb folder.
By Jillian Richard, UNB 2017
*The Herbarium holds approximately 450 specimens collected by J. Robb.