John Hope

The Teaching Botanist

It's the birthday of John Hope, who lived during the Scottish enlightenment; he was a botanist, a famous professor, and founder of one of the leading botanical gardens in Europe, born on this day in 1725.

Hope produced considerable work on plant classification and physiology. He was appointed to positions of the King's botanist for Scotland and superintendent of the Royal Garden in Edinburgh.

At the time, Edinburgh was THE place to study medicine, and all medical students had to take botany courses. Hope created a school for botanists after spinning off the materia medica (pharmacy) department of the school, which allowed him to specialize exclusively on botany. Hope was a captivating instructor. He was one of the first two people to teach the Linnean system, and he also taught the natural system. He was one of the first instructors to use big teaching diagrams or visual aids to teach his lectures. His students traveled from all over the world, Europe, America, and India. Hope taught over 1,700 students during his tenure and they included the likes of James Edward Smith, founder and first President of the Linnaean Society, Charles Drayton and Benjamin Rush. A field botanist, Hope encouraged his students to go out and investigate the Flora of Scotland, and he awarded a medal every year to the student who collected the best herbarium.

With Hope's impressive resume came impressive wealth. By the time Hope died, he had amassed more than £12,000, which he had left for his wife.

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John Hope
John Hope

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