Collett was born in Thetford, Norfolk, the fourth son of Rev. W. Collett and his second wife Ellen Clarke née Bidwell, He studied at Tonbridge School and at Addiscombe Military Seminary. He joined the Bengal Army on 8 June 1855, rising through the ranks to become a Lieutenant colonel in 1879. In the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80) he acted as Quartermaster general on the staff of Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts. He was promoted colonel in 1884, made KCB in 1891, and from 1892 to 1893 he commanded the Peshawar district with the rank of Major-general. He retired from the army in 1893.
Collett was a keen botanist, an interest that he developed when posted in 1878 in the Kurram Valley. He studied and collected plants in Afghanistan, Algeria, Burma, the Canaries, Corsica, India, Java, and Spain. He was made a fellow of the Linnean Society of London in 1879. He was one of the founding members of the Simla Naturalists' Society. At his death he was working on a book on the flora of Simla, which was published posthumously as Flora Simlensis (1902).
- Vibart, Henry Meredith (1912). Dictionary of National Biography (2nd supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co. .
- H. M. Vibart rev. James Lunt. "Collett, Sir Henry (1836-1901)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/32497. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Flora Simlensis
- Collett, Henry (1895) Notes on some plants of the Himalaya. Army & Navy Co-operative Society Limited, London.
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