John Evelyn, an English author, born in Wotton, Surrey, Oct. 31, 1620, died there, Feb. 27, 1706. He was educated at Balliol college, Oxford, studied law, and served for a short time in 1641 as a volunteer in the Netherlands. He returned to England as the civil war was breaking out, and joined the royal army, but after the king's retreat to Gloucester travelled through France and Italy. He returned in 1651, assisted in the restoration of 1660, and was received with favor at court. He was one of the founders of the royal society in 1662, a member of the first council, and during his life a constant contributor to its "Transactions." Upon the breaking out of the Dutch war in 1664 he was a commissioner to tend the sick and wounded, and he was one of the first members of the board of trade. The English naval commissioners dreading a scarcity of naval timber in the country, at the request of the royal society Evelyn wrote his "Sylva, or a Discourse on Forest Trees, and the Propagation of Timber in his Majesty's Dominions" (folio, 1664). It induced many landholders to plant an immense number of young oak trees, which furnished the ship yards of the next century.
He published many other popular works on learned subjects, on painting, sculpture, architecture, and medals, and was one of the first in England to treat gardening and planting scientifically. The most valuable of his works is a diary, in which during the greater part of his life he related the events in which he was interested. This was edited by W. Brady (4 vols. 4to, 1818), and contains much curious and minute information concerning the manners and society of his time. An enlarged edition was edited by John Forster (4 vols. 8vo, 1859), and editions in 1 vol. 8vo appeared in 1870 and 1871.