Botanising in Linnaean Britain : a study of Upper Teesdale in northern England
The Swede, Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), introduced an artificial " Sexual System " of
plant classification in 1735, and a binomial system of nomenclature in 1753. They
made plant identification much easier. The Linnaean period in Britain lasted from
1760 until [1810-]1830. It is demonstrated that it was during this period that it was
first recognised that an unusually high number of rare plants grow in Upper Teesdale.
Most of the rare plants of the then very remote Upper Teesdale were discovered
shortly after 1783 by William Oliver (1760-1816), alone. He was a surgeon and part
of a medical dynasty. How he became a botanist, with his medical background, is
examined in detail. He trained at Edinburgh but did not do botany. However, he knew
John Hope, the Professor of Botany. Hope was one of only two people teaching the
Linnaean system in Britain at this time. The appearance of Linnaean floras of Britain
in English from the 1770's onwards made field botany accessiblet o anyone.
Previously complex natural systems of plant classification and the use of Latin had
How Oliver's discoveries were made known is examined in detail. It involved Rev.
John Harriman (1760-183 1) who was influenced by the Linnean Society of London,
formed in 1788, and the Linnaean English Botany which began in 1790. H-e wanted to
become a Fellow of the Linnean Society. James Edward Smith was President of the
Linnean Society and an author, with James Sowerby, ofEnglish Botany. IV
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Edward Robson (1763-1813), a Quaker botanist and already an Associate of the
Linnean Society, and his compilation: Plantae rariores agro Dunelmensi indigenae of
1798, and John Binks (1766-1817), an artisan botanist. Medicine made botanists of
both Harriman and Binks, as well as Oliver. Linnaeus influenced the teaching of
materia medica (the plant simples).