John Wilson

Shoes, Bakeries, and Botanists

It's the anniversary of the death of the botanist John Wilson who died on this day in 1751. 
It was Wilson who first attempted a systematic arrangement of the plants of Great Britain in the English language. From an occupational standpoint, Wilson was a shoemaker and then a baker.
There is a little story that is often told about Wilson - although its veracity has been questioned.
Apparently Wilson was so intent on the pursuit of botany that he was tempted to sell his cow to by the book written by the Scottish botanist and taxonomist Robert Morison. The transaction would have caused Wilson's financial ruin had a neighbor lady not purchased the book for him.
And there was one other story that reveals Wilson's self-taught expertise and personality.
Wilson had traveled to the county of Durham, where he met a man who enjoyed growing rare plants.
The man challenged Wilson to a contest of skill. The man thought himself superior to Wilson and when he could not stump him with the names of the rarities in his garden. Wilson turned about and grabbed a wild herb, which the man simply dismissed as a weed.
But, Wilson stated that a weed was a term of art, not a product of nature: adding, that the explanation proved his antagonist to be a gardener, not a botanist.
And so, the contest ended.

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John Wilson
John Wilson

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