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Sibbald, Sir Robert

  • SIB
  • Persoon
  • 1641-1722

Born Edinburgh 1641; died Edinburgh 1722
Robert Sibbald was educated in Cupar, at Edinburgh High School, and at the university there when he was awarded an MA in 1659. From 1660 to 1661 he studied anatomy and surgery and botany and chemistry at Leiden before moving to Paris and then Angers where he graduated MD in 1661. Returning to Edinburgh to practise as a doctor he was appalled at the state of medicine in the city and initially established a private garden to cultivate medicinal herbs. In 1670, with his friend and distant cousin Andrew Balfour, he leased a small plot belonging to Holyroodhouse at St. Anne’s Yards to assemble a collection of between 800 and 900 plants. This, together with a second (physic) garden at the Trinity Hospital acquired 6 years later, became a major site for plants of use in material medica and a teaching resource for medical students. Sibbald was a joint founder of a medical virtuoso club which in 1681 became the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. He was knighted in 1682, appointed physician in ordinary to Charles II and made geographer royal for Scotland. In 1684 he produced a ‘Pharmacopeia Edinburgensis’ and the following year he became the first professor of medicine at Edinburgh University. However hostility to his conversion to Catholicism (which he later renounced) meant he had to flee temporarily to London. On his return to Edinburgh he developed a deepening interest in natural history, geography and antiquarianism and from 1682 became involved in compiling information from a range of sources on the geography and natural history of Scotland, resulting in the publication of ‘Scotia Illustrata’ in 1684, with a second edition in 1696. Drawing on his various interests, Sibbald contributed to early Enlightenment discourses on the economic potential of the nation. As a physician he explored the efficacy of botanical cures by extracted from Scottish plant life and his botanical work was admired by Linnaeus who named the genus Sibbaldia in his honour.
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; HR Fletcher and WH Brown ‘The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 1670-1970’; Deni Bown, ‘4 Gardens in One’; (R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists).

Aellen, Paul (1896-1973)

  • VIAF ID: 166770565 ( Personal )
  • Persoon
  • 1896-1973

Obituary published in German in Bauhinia v5/2, pp.103-104, 1974.

Johnston, Henry Halcro

  • VIAF ID: 3662150203820403250003 ( Personal )
  • Persoon
  • 1856-1939

Born Orkney 1856; died Orkney 1939
Educated at Dollar Academy and the Edinburgh Collegiate School, Henry Halcro Johnston took a degree in medicine at Edinburgh University. While at university he played rugby for Scotland, gaining an international cap in 1877. He served in the Army Medical Department in Mauritius, Sudan, The North West Frontier and South Africa from 1881, rising to the rank of Colonel before retiring in 1913. He was re-employed during the First World War, working in hospitals in Gibraltar, Glasgow and York. With a wide range of scientific and botanical interests, he collected herbarium material and seeds throughout his military service around the world. On returning to Orkney in 1919 he was able to concentrate on the botany of the islands, meticulously collecting and documenting his collections, focusing particularly on the microspecies of Taraxacum and Hieracium. Some of his work was published in the Transactions of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh. He was an active member of the Orkney Natural History Society and responsible for organising the herbarium at the Stromness Museum. Most of his botanical collections and notes were bequeathed to the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.
Sources: R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists); obituary folder

Chandler, Bertha

  • Persoon

Bertha Chandler (Mrs. C. Norman Kemp) was the first woman to obtain the degree of D.Sc. of Edinburgh University July 1915.

Neill, Patrick

  • NEI
  • Persoon
  • 1776-1851

Born Edinburgh 1776; died Edinburgh 1851
Descended from East Lothian printers, Patrick Neill attended Edinburgh University though did not graduate. He joined the family firm of printers and eventually established his own firm of Neill & Co. ; the success of his company allowed him to devote much time to scientific pursuits. In 1804 he visited Orkney and Shetland and accounts of his natural history and economic observations appeared in The Scots Magazine. In 1808 he became a founder member of the Wernerian Natural History Society comprising leading lights of the Scottish scientific community as well as eminent international members. In 1809 he became first secretary of the Caledonian Horticultural Society (CHS), a position he was to hold for the next 40 years. This Society, still active today, brought together professional and amateur gardeners, academics, landowners and nurserymen. William Neill had inherited Canonmills Cottage in north Edinburgh and in its half acre garden created a ‘mini’ botanic garden with thousands of rare and unusual plants from all over the world, as well as a small menagerie. In 1813 Neill produced a report on Scottish Gardens and Orchards, the first general survey of Scottish horticulture, and in 1817 was commissioned by the CHS to examine the state of horticulture in Northern Europe involving an extensive trip through France and the Low Countries. In the 1820s he advised Edinburgh town council on the development East Princes St Gardens leading to new plantings of 27,000 trees and shrubs, though the design was subsequently wrecked by the building of the railway and Scott Monument in the 1840s. Neill was held in high regard by his fellow citizens as evidenced by his 1843 testimonial silver vase paid for by working gardeners, and the Caledonian Society’s successful growth and influence owed much to Neill’s enthusiasm and careful administration. He died in 1851 and among his charitable bequests was £500 to the Royal CHS to found a medal for a distinguished botanist or cultivator, and the same amount to the Royal Society of Edinburgh for a medal for distinguished Scottish naturalists.
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; ‘Patrick Neill , Doyenne of Scottish Horticulture’Forbes W Robertson; (R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists).

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