Medical and landscape historian, Dr Clare Hickman brings us up-to-date with some of her activities during 2018
John Coakley Lettsom (1733-1810), physician, with his family, in the garden of Grove Hill, Camberwell, ca. 1786. Oil painting by an English painter, ca. 1786.. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY
The Doctor’s Garden
Dr Hickman (https://drclarehickman.wordpress.com) is currently researching late Georgian gardens for a new publication with Yale University Press due in 2020. Her book will highlight the use of gardens by medical practitioners for knowledge creation, dissemination and the establishment of polite networks of influence.
Medical practitioners were ideally placed to capitalize on the fashion for botanical collecting and agricultural experimentation at the end of the eighteenth century because they had access to botanical training as part of their medical education and, for those at the top end of the profession at least, a reasonable disposable income.
The book will draw together examples of the design and use of institutional, semi-public and private gardens created during this period by professors, physicians, surgeons and apothecaries. In this way it will inform our understanding of gardens created by the emerging middle classes as well as highlight the extent of the involvement of medical practitioners in a range of botanical and agricultural activities.
Beginning with University botanic gardens, particularly the Leith Walk garden in Edinburgh and the Glasgow University physic gardens, where eighteenth-century medical students received training in botany, the text will consider how these spaces became configured as elite botanical teaching and research stations and how technicians, such as gardeners and artists, were integral to the success of their activities. It will also consider how the material culture and sensory experience of botanic teaching, with its specimens, illustrations and herbaria, corresponded to other forms of medical teaching, and in particular that of anatomy.
By comparing these University based gardens with botanic collections established through subscription and by private collectors, it will also consider how botanic knowledge was created and shared through a range of different types of garden. Examples will include the London Botanic Garden which was established by the apothecary William Curtis as a semi-public garden funded by subscription, as well as the design and use of domestic gardens, including that developed by Dr Coakley Lettsom with his botanically arranged beds, observatory and agricultural experiments in Camberwell, London.
We also thank Dr Hickman for sharing a link to 'Nature, Health and the Human: A brief sensory history' on which she worked with Dr Victoria Bates.
"Sensing Nature" has been a two-year research project, led by Dr Sarah Bell at the University of Exeter and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Using an in-depth qualitative approach, the project has aimed to improve the ways we understand, enable and promote more inclusive, multisensory nature experiences amongst people living with sight impairment. Sarah brings LGHN up to date with the project's progress this year.
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