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300 Years of Growth

300 Years of Botany in TCD


The Register of the College records that on 25th June 1687, the Provost and Fellows resolved that the then kitchen garden of the College “should be made a Physic Garden at the charge of the College”,  to provide plant material to support the teaching of medicine. The Physic Garden is referred to again in the Register of 1710; its exact position cannot be determined, but it was undoubtedly somewhere in the vicinity of the Old Library.


Henry Nicholson, M.D. was appointed first Lecturer of Botany. Nicholson straight away set about creating a comprehensive Physic Garden, as limited progress had been made thus far. The first seeds of the redevelopment were planted in 1712. Read more...


Nicholson shows signs of disenchantment with TCD: "Our gentlemen here give little encouragement towards the improvement of Botany they being generally ignorant of the use and pleasure of that study."


William Stephens, was appointed second Lecturer of Botany. Stephens drew up a catalogue of the plants in the College’s physic garden in 1726 which ran to over 500 taxa. Read more...


Charles Chemys, was appointed Lecturer of Botany. He entered Trinity College at the age of 15, and was elected a Fellow of the College of Physicians on March 4, 1733. He died suddenly on September 9 of the same year. He was thus the shortest serving post holder. Read more...


William Clements, M.P. was elected Lecturer in Botany as successor to Chemys. He was an excellent academic and politician. He held many prestigous posts in College, the last of which was vice-provost (from 1753 to 1782). William Clements died 15 January 1782 and was buried in the chapel of Trinity College. Read more...


James Span succeeded Clements, and was elected Lecturer in Botany, as well as Chair of Chemistry on the same day. This was despite the fact that holding two teaching chairs at the same time was strictly forbidden by Acts of Parliament. Read more...


Edward Hill was elected Lecturer in Botany until 1785, then Professor of Botany. A graduate of Trinity, he was an active member of the College, he held the posts of Censor, Treasurer and President (six times), before being appointed Librarian from 1819-1826. The physic garden was transferred to Harold's Cross under the private ownership of Hill, who received a grant from College for its upkeep and maintenance. Read more...


Robert Scott was elected Professor in Botany. He established the Botanic Gardens in Ballsbridge, and brought to Dublin the young Scottish horticulturist James Townsend Mackay, who not only developed and enriched the College's magnificent, world-renowned botanic garden at Ballsbridge, but also published the first, modern flora of Ireland. Read more...


James Townsend Mackay was appointed Assistant Botanist, then in 1805 he was appointed Curator of the Botanic Garden. Credited with producing the first modern flora of Ireland.


The relocated Botanic Garden in Ballsbridge, was opened with the lease of three acres on a 175 year lease of 15 guineas per year, the derelict College Physic garden was finally abandoned.


The Harolds Cross Garden collections were transferred to the new Garden at Ballsbridge


William Allman was elected Professor of Botany in 1809. He was a friend of the eminent botanist Robert Brown, and arranged his lectures in 1812 on the Natural System, being the first person in Britain or Ireland to do so. Read more...


Two more acres were added to Botanic Gardens in Ballsbridge.


Thomas Coulter was appointed the first herbarium curator. The herbarium began with his own personal collection at House no. 40. Coulter was a well-known early plant-collector/explorer best known for his work in Mexico and North America. From there come two of his best known finds, both of which were named in his honour; Coulter Pine (Pinus coulteri) and the highly attractive garden plant Romneya coulteri.


William Henry Harvey was appointed Herbarium Curator. Harvey was renowned for his hard-work and his love of exploration. He travelled and collected extensively throughout Australia, North America and South Africa, which led to the accumulation of 100,000 specimens by the mid 19th Century. His achievements are all the more remarkable when it is recalled that at the same time, as he undertook extensive plant-collecting, Harvey wrote several books and that these were illustrated by over 900 of his own hand-drawn lithographic plates. Read more...


George James Allman was elected Professor of Botany. A botanist, and zoologist, he was the well regarded author of two books: A monograph of the freshwater Polyzoa (1856), and a monograph on the gymnoblastic or tubularian hydroids (2 vols, 1871–2), which still remain important sources today. Read more...


A further acquisition of two more acres to the Ballsbridge Gardens completes the full area of the Ballsbridge Gardens.


William Henry Harvey was elected Professor of Botany. A botanist, phycologist and systematist, he was a prolific writer and assiduous collector. An explorer by nature, he took the post of Colonial Treasurer, which enabled him to travel to South Africa, where he began one of the works for which he is now famous, Flora Capensis, and published two others, The Genera of South African Plants and A Manual of the British Algae. Read more...


John Bain succeeded James Mackay as Curator of the Botanic Gardens.


Alexander Dickson was elected Professor of Botany. Dickson was to become one of the most prominent Scottish botanists in the second half of the 19th century. During this two year period at Trinity, Dickson succeeded in publishing five scientific papers on plant anatomy and flower morphology, his main interests being flower morphology, embryogeny and teratology, subjects in which he published widely from. Read more...


Amended School of Physic Act was passed, after which the Professor of Botany was no longer one of the Clinical Professors in the School of Physic.


Edward Percival Wright was elected Professor of Botany. He had been awarded his BA from Trinity College Dublin and thus began an entire career at the University. A zoologist, medic and botanist, he founded and edited the Natural History Review at the age of 20, and after graduating, he became the curator of the University Museum. He published extensively on flora and fauna. Read more...


Edward Percival Wright appointed as Herbarium Curator. Wright added to the herbarium by rearranging the specimens so that they followed what was at the time a modern phylogenetic arrangement. He also purchased and donated very many important taxonomic books.


FW Burbidge appointed Herbarium Curator, well known for his explorations of the Mt Kinabalu region, and for his work on Narcissus (daffodils).


The Herbarium moved to rooms over the Front Gate.


College Gardens presented with a huge specimen of the fern Todea barbara from Royal Botanic Garden Melbourne to mark the College tercentenary.


Henry Horatio Dixon was elected professor of Botany. Dixon and his friend John Joly are renowned in scientific literature for their Theory of the Ascent of Sap in plants. The significance of this theory was that it laid one of the cornerstones for the understanding of why and how water plays such an important part in maintaining the functioning of plants. Read more...


The purpose built Botany Building was offically opened.


Burbidge dies and after this the Gardens are placed under the directorship of the Professor of Botany.


Henry Horatio Dixon appointed as Herbarium Curator. Though jokingly referring to the Herbarium as 'hay' he was responsible for getting a new Herbarium Building added to the School and organising the specimens in it.


The current Herbarium Building was added as an annex to the Botany Building


David Allardice Webb was elected Professor of Botany. Webb was a leading taxonomic botanist in Ireland, but also the best known, and respected, Irish botanist in international circles, with his major contributions to Flora Europaea and the genus Saxifraga. He also put together the first edition of a pocket reference handbook on Irish plants, An Irish Flora. This has been, for over 50 years, through seven, soon to be eight editions, the standard field reference book on Irish plants. Read more...


David Allardice Webb appointed as Herbarium Curator. Internationally renowned for his role as an editor of Flora Europaea and as the author of the standard Irish Flora, Webb added a comprehensive collection of European Floras to the Herbarium Library, collected assiduously himself mainly in Europe, and ensured that the European plants in the herbarium were arranged in the most up-to-date manner.


A plan was put before the College Board to relocate the Gardens to the Trinity Hall site at Dartry.


William Arthur Watts was elected Professor of Botany. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, he became a leading international researcher. In his time, he oversaw the establishment of the new TCD Botanic Gardens at the Trinity Hall site. An excellent administrator he held many senior academic posts, the most notable of which was Provost in 1981. Read more .....


The move of the Gardens from Ballsbridge to Dartry was completed. Many important plant specimens were transferred to Dartry, including a 25 foot tall Ginkgo and various cycads.


David Horsfall Stuart Richardson was elected to Professor of Botany. Richardson was an energetic administrator, shrewd negotiator, and enthusiastic teacher. During his time in TCD, he oversaw a huge increase in research activity and funding. Richardson left TCD in 1992, having been offered the Deanship of Science at Saint Mary's University in Nova Scotia.  He retired from the Deanship in 2007.  Since then he has continued research on lichens; he is currently Editor-in-chief of the Journal Symbiosis and President of the Nova Scotian Institute of Science.. Read more...


The Luce Hall and Laboratories were built and occupied


John Adrian Naicker Parnell appointed as Herbarium Curator. He remains in charge of the internationally important College Herbarium of ca. 300,000 specimens. A specialist, in plant systematics and floristics; biodiversity and conservation, he has written/co-athoured a number of books. He has added numerous of his own collections to the herbarium (mainly from Thailand) and initiated many exchange programs with other herbaria worldwide. Parnell is Professor of Systematic Botany and the current elected Head of School of Natural Sciences.


The Tercentenary of the Gardens was celebrated with a special symposium in honour of Professor David Webb held in the Botany Department.


The Australian Ambassador to Ireland presented a specimen of the tree fern Cyathea australis to the Botanic Garden from the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, to mark the College Quatercentenary.


Michael Bevan Jones was elected Professor of Botany, and is currently Senior Dean as well. He is well regarded nationally and internationally, as a plant ecophysiologist, whose main area of research is in the study of climate-plant interactions, particularly the effects of climate and future carbon dioxide effects on photosynthesis, growth and primary productivity on which he has published extensively. He was also the regional co-ordinator of CarboEurope IP in relation to grassland Carbon balances and was elected to the Royal Irish Academy in 2003.


The Centenary of the Botany Building was celebrated with a Symposium on 'Climate Change: the implications for Ireland and for Europe'. As well as a gathering of alumni, students, staff and colleagues for a memorable series of talks, where a range of speakers reminisced about the building and its inhabitants, past and present.


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Last updated 7 November 2012 by