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‘The want of a proper Gardiner’: late Georgian Scottish botanic gardeners as intermediaries of medical and scientific knowledge

  • CLARE HICKMAN (a1)

Abstract

Often overlooked by historians, specialist gardeners with an expert understanding of both native and exotic plant material were central to the teaching and research activities of university botanic gardens. In this article various interrelationships in the late Georgian period will be examined: between the gardener, the garden, the botanic collection, the medical school and ways of knowing. Foregrounding gardeners’ narratives will shed light on the ways in which botanic material was gathered and utilized for teaching and research purposes, particularly for medical students, as well as highlighting the importance of the garden as a repository of botanic material for the classroom. In this way, the blurred lines between art and science, skill and scholarly activity, and shared pedagogic practices between botany and anatomy will be revealed.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Footnotes

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This research was conducted as part of a Wellcome Fellowship in History of Medicine and Humanities (WT 100388MA). I would particularly like to thank Charlotte Sleigh for her thoughtful editorial comments as well as the anonymous reviewers for their constructive and helpful feedback. Thanks also go to Tim Grady, Neil Pemberton, Kara Critchell and Tim Reinke-Williams for reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this work.

Footnotes

References

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1 Boney, A.D., The Lost Gardens of Glasgow University, London: Christopher Helm, 1988, p. 88.

2 Boney op. cit. (1), p. 88..

3 Robert Hamilton and William Cullen, ‘Memorial by Robert Hamilton, Professor of Anatomy and Botany, and Dr William Cullen, Professor of Medicine, to the University concerning the planting of more trees and shrubs in the College garden in place of the decayed fruit trees’, Glasgow University Archives, GUA 5412.

4 Hamilton and Cullen, op. cit. (3).

5 Historic Environment Scotland, inventory of gardens and designed landscapes, Glasgow Botanic Gardens, GDL00190, 1987.

6 The relationship between the city and the Georgian botanic garden has been expertly outlined by in, Paul ElliottEnlightenment, Modernity and Science: Geographies of Scientific Culture and Improvement in Georgian England, London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2010.

7 Noltie, Henry, John Hope (1725–1786), Edinburgh: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2011, p. 19.

8 ‘Botanic Garden’, Caledonian Mercury, 4 May 1782, p. 1.

9 Hickman, Clare, ‘Curiosity and instruction: British and Irish botanic gardens and their audiences, 1760–1800’, Environment and History (2018) 24(1), pp. 5980.

10 Elliott, Paul, Watkins, Charles and Daniels, Stephen, ‘“Combining science with recreation and pleasure”: cultural geographies of nineteenth-century arboretums’, Garden History (2007) 35(2), pp. 627, 15.

11 Johnson, Nuala, ‘Grand design(er)s: David Moore, natural theology and the Royal Botanic gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin, 1838–1879’, Cultural Geographies (2007) 14(1), pp. 2955, 38.

12 Lecture Four from a course of thirty lectures on botany by John Sibthorp, Sherardian Library, University of Oxford, MS Sherard 219, p. 67.

13 Sibthorp, op. cit. (12) p. 67.

14 Johnson, Nuala, Nature Displaced, Nature Displayed: Order and Beauty in Botanical Gardens, London: I.B. Tauris, 2011.

15 For more detail on the design of Hope's garden see Lausen-Higgins, Johanna, ‘Sylva botanica: evaluation of the lost eighteenth-century Leith Walk Botanic Garden Edinburgh’, Garden History (2015) 43(2), pp. 218236.

16 For an expert reading on design and the transition to nineteenth-century botanic gardens see Johnson, op. cit. (14).

17 Olszewski, Margaret Maria, ‘Dr. Auzoux's botanical teaching models and medical education at the universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (2011) 42(3), pp. 285296, 288.

18 One of John Hope's most influential patrons was Lord Bute, and Hope took advantage of Bute's short time as prime minister (1762–1763) to successfully request funds from the Lords of the Treasury for the garden. See Noltie, op. cit. (7), p. 19.

19 Noltie, op. cit. (7), p. 80.

20 Letter from Thomas Martyn to Dr Pulteney, 31 May 1766, in George Cornelius Gorham, Memoirs of John Martyn and of Thomas Martyn, London: Gaulter Printer, 1830, p. 132.

21 ‘When he had read Lectures in the science, which was his favourite study, for a few years, he found it necessary to add the other branches of Natural History, Animals, and Fossils; Botany not being then sufficiently popular to keep together a class on that single subject!’ In Gorham, op. cit. (20), pp. 127–128.

22 Gorham, op. cit. (20), p. 118.

23 Anon., ‘Lectures on Botany by John Hope MD in the Royal Botanick Garden Edin.. 1777–8’, Royal Botanic Gardens Archives (hereafter RBGE), p. 168.

24 Johnson, op. cit. (11), p. 45.

25 Livingstone, David, ‘Keeping knowledge in site’, History of Education (2010) 39(6), pp. 779785, 782. See also Livingstone, David and Withers, Charles (eds.), Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011.

26 Spary, Emma, Utopia's Garden: French Natural History from Old Regime to Revolution, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000.

27 Klein, Ursula and Spary, Emma (eds.), Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe: Between Market and Laboratory, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010.

28 Roberts, Lissa Louise, Schaffer, Simon and Dear, Peter Robert (eds.), The Mindful Hand: Inquiry and Invention from the Late Renaissance to Early Industrialisation, Amsterdam: Koninkliijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, 2007.

29 Rosner, Lisa, Medical Education in the Age of Improvement: Edinburgh Students and Apprentices, 1760–1826, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991, p. 63.

30 Rosner, op. cit. (29), p. 56.

31 Rosner, op. cit. (29), p. 57.

32 Richard Bradley, ‘Preface’, in Bradley, A survey of the ancient husbandry and gardening, London: Printed for B. Motte, 1725, n.p.

33 Bradley, op. cit. (32).

34 Bradley, op. cit. (32). For more on this see Johnson, op. cit. (14), p. 20; and Johnson, Nuala, ‘Cultivating science and planting beauty: the spaces of display in Cambridge's botanic gardens’, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (2006) 31(1), pp. 4257.

35 Shapin, Steven, ‘The audience for science in eighteenth-century Edinburgh’, History of Science (1974) 12(2), pp. 95121, 97.

36 Wood, Paul, ‘Candide in Caledonia: the culture of science in the Scottish universities, 1690–1805’, in Feingold, M. and Navarro-Brotons, V. (eds.), Universities and Science in the Early Modern Period, Dordrecht: Springer, 2006, pp. 183199; Withers, Charles, ‘William Cullen's agricultural lectures and writings and the development of agricultural science in eighteenth-century Scotland’, Agricultural History Review (1989) 37(2), pp. 144156.

37 McEwan, Ron, ‘The northern lads: the migration of Scottish gardeners with especial reference to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’, Sibbaldia (2013) 11, pp. 109123.

38 The migration of Scottish gardeners to England had been condemned as early as 1718 by Stephen Switzer, who complained that ‘there are likewise several Northern Lads, which whether they have served any time in this Art, or not, very few of us know anything of; yet by the help of a little Learning and a great deal of Impudence, they invade these Southern Provinces’. Switzer, Stephen, Ichnographia rustica; Or, The nobleman, gentleman, and gardener's recreation, vol. 1, London: D. Browne, 1718, Preface, p. xxiv. For more on the Scottish network of gardeners see Sue Shephard, Seeds of Fortune: A Gardening Dynasty, London: Bloomsbury, p. 200. See McEwan, op. cit. (37), for more on the important role of Scottish gardeners, and Kew and Noltie, op. cit. (7), on the role of Leith Walk in training gardeners and plant collectors.

39 See Johnson, op. cit. (11), p. 125; and Johnson, op. cit. (14), p. 77.

40 Wood, op. cit. (36), pp. 183–199.

41 Jonsson, Fredrik Albritton, ‘Scottish tobacco and rhubarb: the natural order of civil cameralism in the Scottish Enlightenment’, Eighteenth-Century Studies (2016) 49(2), pp. 129–47.

42 See Jonsson, op. cit. (41), for a detailed analysis of this.

43 Hartley, Beryl, ‘Sites of knowledge and instruction: arboretums and the Arboretum et Futicetum Britannicum’, Garden History (2007) 35(2), pp. 2852, 30.

44 Hartley, op. cit. (43). The term ‘arboretum’ was probably first used by Loudon in 1806, according to Hartley.

45 See Elliott, Watkins and Daniels, op. cit. (10).

46 Martyn, Thomas, A short account of the late donation of a botanic garden to the University of Cambridge by the Reverend Dr. Walker …, Cambridge: Printed by J. Bentham, 1763, p. 5.

47 Baxter, William, British phaenogamous botany; Or, Figures and descriptions of the genera of British flowering plants, vol. 6, Oxford: Published by the author, 1834, p. 419a.

48 Baxter, op. cit. (47), p. 419a.

49 Details of this and a brief sketch of his life can be found in a letter from the apothecary John Ireland to the Oxford Journal, Saturday 29 November 1817.

50 Boney, op. cit. (1), p. 187.

51 From the detailed and expert research conducted by Arthur Boney, Robert seems to have undertaken much of this work himself with the aid of paid day labourers (and presumably also his son, who succeeded him in the role in 1801).

52 Boney, op. cit. (1), p. 192.

53 Boney, op. cit. (1), p. 192.

54 Boney, op. cit. (1), p. 192.

55 We can compare this with Lee and Kennedy's nursery in Kensington in the 1820s, which is recorded in a letter by Dr Schultes in W.J. Hooker's Botanical Miscellany: Containing Figures and Descriptions of Such Plants as Recommend Themselves by Their Novelty, Rarity or History, or by The Uses To Which they are Applied in the Arts, Medicine, and in Domestic Economy, vol. 1, London: John Murray, 1830. Shultes states that ‘at present the sons carry on the management of this large nursery, which they themselves say contains one hundred acres, and requires the labour of from one hundred and fifty to two hundred workmen’ (p. 74). This is obviously a commercial operation on a much larger scale but it suggests that Glasgow was woefully under-resourced. Thanks to Suzanne Moss for this reference.

56 Boney, op. cit. (1), p. 227. He succeeded William Hamilton as joint professor of anatomy and botany but seems to have preferred teaching anatomy.

57 Boney, op. cit. (1), p. 277.

58 Boney, op. cit. (1), pp. 243–244.

59 Letter from Dr Brown to Dr Jeffray, Thursday 12 June 1806, Glasgow University Archives, GUA 1961b.

60 ‘Botanic Garden Order Book’, 7 February 1735, Sherardian Library, MS Sherard 1, p. 5.

61 Proceedings of the Royal Dublin Society (1 December 1796) 33, p. 19, as quoted in Johnson, Nuala, ‘Labels and planting regimes: regulating trees at Glasnevin Botanic Gardens, Dublin, 1795–1850’, Garden History (2007) 35 Supplement: Cultural and Historical Geographies of the Arboretum, pp. 5370, 68.

62 Letter from Dr Brown to Dr Jeffray, op. cit. (59).

63 Letter from Dr Brown to Dr Jeffray, op. cit. (59).

64 Secord, Anne, ‘Science in the pub: artisan botanists in early nineteenth-century Lancashire’, History of Science (1994) 32(3), pp. 269315.

65 Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, 5 December 1783, 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection.

66 Laird, Mark, Natural History of English Gardening, New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2014, p. 352.

67 Laird, op. cit. (66)

68 Forsythe, Sutherland and Cole, Donna, Discover the Botanic Cottage, Edinburgh: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2016, p. 2.

69 An area explored in detail by in, Sarah Easterby-SmithCultivating Commerce: Cultures of Botany in Britain and France, 1760–1815, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

70 The role of the gardener as someone who would communicate knowledge via formal or informal tours deserves further research. In 1776 Mrs Boscawen wrote to Mrs Delany about her visit to Luton Hoo and describes how she ‘entertain'd myself highly above an hour; the gardener more civil and agreeable than ever I saw one, the conservatory more delightful’. The Hon. Mrs Boscawen to Mrs Delany, 14 October 1776, in Llanover, Lady Augusta (ed.), The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs. Delany: With Interesting Reminiscences of King George the Third and Queen Charlotte, second series, vol. 3, London: Bentley, 1862, pp. 264265.

71 Minutes of meetings of the faculty 1813–1825, 13 November 1822, Clerk's Press, Glasgow University Archives, GUA 26698.

72 Letter from Dr Brown to Dr Jeffray, op. cit. (59).

73 Boney, op. cit. (1), p. 247.

74 ‘Botanic Garden Order Book’, op. cit. (60), 8 September 1735, pp. 2–3.

75 ‘Botanic Garden Order Book’, op. cit. (60), 8 September 1735, pp. 2–3.

76 ‘Botanic Garden Order Book’, op. cit. (60), 8 September 1735, pp. 2–3.

77 ‘Botanic Garden Order Book’, op. cit. (60), 8 September 1735, pp. 2–3.

78 Letter from Dr Brown to Dr Jeffray, op. cit. (59).

79 Letter from Dr Brown to Dr Jeffray, op. cit. (59).

80 The first was created in 1670 by Dr Sibbald and Dr Balfour and located adjacent to Holyrood Palace, and the second was founded at Trinity Hospital soon afterwards, in 1676.

81 Having studied botany in Paris under Bernard de Jussieu, Hope appears to have become more interested in botany than other branches of medical education, and in 1768 he managed to pass the materia medica part of his professorship on to another eminent physician, Francis Home. At that point Hope became the first Regius Professor of Botany at the University of Edinburgh. The Leith Walk garden was initially based on the collections he was allowed and funded to move from the earlier physic gardens, at Trinity and Holyrood.

82 According to Noltie, op. cit. (7), p. 84, ‘more than 1700 men attended Hope's lectures in Botany (1761–1786) and Materia Medica (1761–1767)’.

83 Forsythe and Cole, op. cit. (68), p. 2.

84 For more information on the botanic cottage and its recent reconstruction see Forsythe and Cole, op. cit. (68).

85 Forsythe and Cole, op. cit. (68), p. 5.

86 The cause of Williamson's death was related to his second employment as a customs officer. It was while acting in this capacity that he was mortally wounded by a group of armed smugglers.

87 Harris, Stephen, Oxford Botanic Garden & Arboretum: A Brief History, Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2017, p. ix.

88 Francis Buchanan, ‘Notes taken from Dr. John Hope's lectures on botany’, summer 1780, RBGE Archives.

89 Anon., op. cit. (23), p. 7.

90 ‘A list of specimens of experiments kept in the gardeners house’, Botanical Papers of John Hope MD Professor of Botany and Materia Medica at Edinburgh, National Records of Scotland, GD253/145/7/2.

91 Hope, op. cit. (90); Shapin, Steven, ‘Invisible technicians’, American Scientist (1989) 77(6), pp. 554563.

92 Noltie, op. cit. (7), p. 36.

93 Jane Corrie, ‘Botanic Cottage Project report. Stories from the historical archives: about Botanic Cottage, the Leith Walk Garden and John Hope's “other” life as a physician’, May 2009, RBGE\3B Cor.

94 Corrie, op. cit. (93).

95 John Hope, ‘Remarks on lectures’, RBGE Archives, GD253/144/14/16.

96 Hope, op. cit. (95).

97 Anon., op. cit. (23), pp. 60–61.

98 From Berkowitz, Carin, Charles Bell and the Anatomy of Reform, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015, p. 48.

99 Classen, Constance, ‘Museum manners: the sensory life of the early museum’, Journal of Social History (2007) 40(4), pp. 895914.

100 Easterby-Smith, Sarah, ‘Selling beautiful knowledge: amateurship, botany and the market-place in eighteenth-century France’, Journal of Eighteenth-Century Studies (2013) 36(4), pp. 531543, 532.

101 Easterby-Smith, op. cit. (100), p. 532.

102 ‘Catalogue of Minerals, Fossils, Books, &c. which belonged to the late Mr Thos. Somerville, Manager of the Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, to be sold Saturday April 28, 1810 at his house Botanic Garden, Leith Walk’, RBGE Archives.

103 Scots Magazine and Edinburgh Literary Miscellany, Edinburgh: J. Harden & Co., 1810, p. 318.

104 ‘Catalogue of Minerals, Fossils, Books, &c.’, op. cit. (102).

105 For more on the Duchess of Portland and her interests in botany see Cook, Alexandra, ‘Botanical exchanges: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Duchess of Portland’, History of European Ideas (2007) 33(2), pp. 142156.

106 Tobin, Beth Fowkes, ‘Bluestockings and the cultures of natural history’, in Heller, Deborah (ed.), Bluestockings Now! The Evolution of a Social Role, London: Routledge, 2016, pp. 5570, 66.

107 Lightfoot, John, ‘An Account of Some Minute British Shells, Either not Duly Observed, or Totally Unnoticed by Authors in a Letter to Sir Joseph Banks, Bart. P.R.S’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (1786) 76, pp. 160170, 168.

108 This list can be downloaded from the RBGE website: www.rbge.org.uk/assets/files/science/Library%20-Archives/LeithWalkGardeners1763_1810.pdf, accessed 30 August 2016.

109 Noltie, op. cit. (7), p. 38.

110 The link between anatomical and botanical practices is generally overlooked when considering Georgian medicine; however, the close relationship of the two subjects in the sixteenth century has been expertly outlined by Kusukawa, Sachiko, in Picturing the Book of Nature: Image, Text, and Argument in Sixteenth-Century Human Anatomy and Medical Botany, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012.

111 Noltie, op. cit. (7), p. 38.

112 Caledonian Mercury, 4 March 1776.

113 Hope, op. cit. (95).

114 Noltie, op. cit. (7), p. 81.

115 Currie, Jo, ‘Fyfe, Andrew (1752–1824)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, at www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/10256, accessed 31 January 2016.

116 For more on his anatomical work see Kaufman, M.H., ‘Observations on some of the plates used to illustrate the lymphatics section of Andrew Fyfe's Compendium of the Anatomy of the Human Body, published in 1800’, Clinical Anatomy (1999) 12(1), pp. 2734; Shoja, Mohammadali M., Mortazavi, Martin M., Malakpour, Mehran, Loukas, Marios, Rozzelle, Curtis J. and Tubbs, R. Shane, ‘Fyfe the Elder (1752(4)–1824): Not all good anatomists are good teachers’, Clinical Anatomy (2013) 26(4), pp. 418422.

117 Bleichmar, Daniela, Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions & Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012, p. 9.

118 Noltie, op. cit. (7), p. 80.

119 Berkowitz, Carin, ‘Systems of display: the making of anatomical knowledge in Enlightenment Britain’, BJHS (2012) 46(3), pp. 129, 26.

120 Berkowitz, op. cit. (119), p. 26.

121 Minutes of meetings of the faculty 1806–1813, 20 October 1807, Glasgow University Archives 26697, Clerk's Press 82.

122 Berkowitz, op. cit. (98), p. 48.

123 For more on the role of illustration in eighteenth-century natural history approaches see Bleichmar, op. cit. (117).

124 Harris, op. cit. (87), p. 88.

This research was conducted as part of a Wellcome Fellowship in History of Medicine and Humanities (WT 100388MA). I would particularly like to thank Charlotte Sleigh for her thoughtful editorial comments as well as the anonymous reviewers for their constructive and helpful feedback. Thanks also go to Tim Grady, Neil Pemberton, Kara Critchell and Tim Reinke-Williams for reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this work.

‘The want of a proper Gardiner’: late Georgian Scottish botanic gardeners as intermediaries of medical and scientific knowledge

  • CLARE HICKMAN (a1)

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