Aiton was born near Hamilton. Having been regularly trained to the profession of a gardener, he travelled to London in 1754, and became assistant to Philip Miller, then superintendent of the Chelsea Physic Garden. In 1759 he was appointed director of the newly established botanical garden at Kew, where he remained until his death. He effected many improvements at the gardens, and in 1789 he published Hortus Kewensis, a catalogue of the plants cultivated there. He is buried at nearby St. Anne's Church, Kew.
A second and enlarged edition of the Hortus was brought out in 1810–1813 by his eldest son, William Townsend Aiton.
- Aiton, W. (1789). Hortus Kewensis. London: George Nicol.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Aiton, William". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 448.
- Aiton 1789.
- Nisinger, Connie (31 October 2001). "William Aiton". Find a Grave. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
- IPNI. Aiton.
- Pagmenta, Frank (2009) The Aitons: Gardeners to their Majesties. Richmond Local History Society. ISBN 9780955071751
|Wikisource has the text of the 1885–1900 Dictionary of National Biography's article about William Aiton.|