The Champion of Kew
November 1, 1865
Today is the anniversary of the death of the British gardener, botanist, and orchidologist John Lindley.
John served as secretary to the Royal Horticultural Society for 43 years. This is why the Lindley Library at the RHS is named in honor of John Lindley.
When he was little, John‘s dad owned a nursery and an orchard. John grew up helping with the family business.
In 1815, John left his small hometown and went to London. He became friends with William Jackson Hooker, who, in turn, introduced John to Sir Joseph Banks, who hired John to work in his herbarium.
When Banks died, the fate of the Royal Botanic Gardens was put in jeopardy. Banks' death corresponded with the death of King George III, who was the patron of the garden. These deaths created an opening for the British government to question whether the garden should remain open. On February 11, 1840, John ingeniously demanded that the issue be put before the Parliament. John’s advocacy brought the matter to the publics' attention; the garden-loving British public was not about to lose the Royal Botanic. And, that’s how John Lindley saved Kew Gardens, and William Hooker was chosen as Kew’s new director.
In terms of other accomplishments, John shortened the genus Orchidaceae to orchid – which is much more friendly to pronounce - and when he died, John's massive orchid collection was moved to a new home at Kew.
As for John, there are over 200 plant species named for him. There is "lindleyi", "lindleyana", "lindleyanum", "lindleya" and "lindleyoides".
And here’s a little-remembered factoid about Lindley - he was blind in one eye.