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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
botanic gardens

The concept of a scientific garden, in which living plants would be collected and studied (with a practical emphasis on their medicinal or physic properties), was given its impetus by the discovery of many unknown species in America in the 16C. Italy led the field, but three of Britain's surviving botanic gardens date from the 17C.

The earliest is at Oxford, founded in 1621 by Henry Danvers with a gift of £5000. Its scientific purpose was evident in its original shape, divided into four sections which were intended to accommodate separately the flora of the four known continents (Australia not yet being on the map).

Half a century later came the garden at Edinburgh, established in 1670 by two physicians (originally where Waverley Station stands today, moved to its present site in 1823); with some 35,000 different plants, this Royal Botanic Garden is now one of the largest in the world. The *Chelsea Physic Garden was founded in 1673, acknowledging in its name the central purpose in this early study of plants. The botanic garden at Cambridge was not founded until 1762; it moved to its present site in the mid-19C.

Two of the later botanic gardens were much influenced by William *Hooker. As professor of botany at Glasgow he was closely involved with the botanic gardens started there in 1817 (the great glasshouse known as the Kibble Palace was brought to Glasgow in 1873 from the garden of John Kibble); and in 1840 Hooker became the first director of the newly established national institution at *Kew Gardens. Belfast's botanic gardens date from 1828, and contain a magnificent curving cast-iron and glass palm house (1839–52) by Charles Lanyon and Richard Turner; Turner was an innovative Dublin engineer and ironmaster who moved on from this project to the even more ambitious palm house at Kew.

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