Peter Collinson and the Eighteenth-Century Natural History Exchange (American Philosophical Society Memoir 264, ISBN: 9780871692641)

July 4, 2010 at 2:18 am Leave a comment

Peter Collinson and the Eighteenth-Century Natural History Exchange
(American Philosophical Society Memoir 264, ISBN: 9780871692641)
by Jean O’Neill and Elizabeth P. McLean
(Paperback, 216 pages, 2008, $75.00)

Peter CollinsonCollinson’s life is a microcosm of 18th-century natural history. A gardener and naturalist by avocation, he was what we would now call a facilitator in natural science, disseminating botanical and horticultural knowledge during the Enlightenment.

He influenced the Comte de Buffon and Linnaeus. He found clients for the Philadelphia naturalist John Bartram. American plants populated great estates like those of the Dukes of Richmond, Norfolk, and Bedford, as well as the Chelsea Physic Garden, and the nurseries of James Gordon and Robert Furber. Botanic painters such as Mark Catesby and Georg Dionysius Ehret painted American plants in Collinson’s garden.

He had an unprecedented effect on the exchange of scientific information on both sides of the Atlantic, being credited for introducing more than 150 plans to horticulture. Illustrations.

“One man can make a difference,” co-author Elizabeth McLean tells Green Scene [PDF] in the September/October 2009 issue. “[Collinson] did it for love. He was self-educated, yet he made enormous contributions to natural history in the eighteenth century.”

This book has been indexed by H.W. Wilson in their “Essay and General Literature Index” for June 2009.

H.W. Wilson writes: “These essays describe the life and achievements of the Quaker Peter Collinson, an 18th century London draper and naturalist whose interest in horticulture led him to establish contact with the Philadelphia Quaker farmer and naturalist John Bartram and to import Bartram’s American plants to England.

“The consequent popularity of American plants in English gardens, reflected even in the botanic paintings of the period, have earned Collinson a place in the history of botany as a facilitator between English and American horticulture.”

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