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Hope, John

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Hope, John

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  • Dr. John Hope

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Born Edinburgh 1725; died Edinburgh 1786
John Hope read medicine at Edinburgh University and studied botany in Paris. He was awarded an MD at Glasgow University in 1750 and in 1762 was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. He was appointed physician to the Royal Infirmary and was active in inducing the town council to improve the sanitation of the city. Hope was a key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment, being a foundation fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and, with David Hume, Adam Smith, Allan Ramsay and others, a founder in 1754 of the Select Society. His intellectual passion was botany. In 1761 he became professor of botany and materia medica and also secured a life appointment as the King’s Botanist for Scotland and superintendent of the Royal Garden at Holyrood, Edinburgh. Using family influence, Hope secured Crown funding, to endow a new botanical garden to replace the polluted Royal Abbey Garden and the Town Garden at Trinity Hospital. He moved the rarer plants to a 5 acre site on Leith Walk and this became the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh with greenhouses, ponds and groves arranged on botanical rather than medical principles. In 1763-4 he organised the first British syndicate for importing plant material, especially from North America and he toured English gardens to gather more. Hope himself was an expert plant physiologist, using experimental demonstrations to teach botany, and had a strong interest in systematic botany encouraging his students to explore the flora of Scotland. It was through his advocacy that Linnean teaching gained a hold in Britain. His students became part of an expanding network of plant collectors and one of Hope’s important contributions to science was the creation of an influential school of botanists with international reach.
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; HR Fletcher and WH Brown ‘The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 1670-1970’; (R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists); (Deni Bown, ‘4 Gardens in One’)


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