Subtitled Scottish Plant Explorers this book outlines the lives, achievements and discoveries of the main Scottish botanists from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most of them were pitifully paid (even for the standards of the day), many died young from tropical diseases or were caught up in war zones or suffered fatal accidents (David Douglas whose name was given to the Douglas Fir, died when he apparently fell down a trap for wild cattle in Hawaii though there are suspicions he may have been murdered). Only Robert Fortune seemed to make a real living out of his botanical adventures, thanks in part to finding a commercial publisher for his books. (Fortune's life story is fictionalised in Sara Sheridan's excellent novel The Secret Mandarin which I reviewed here).
The book is obviously well researched and includes details of the botanists' families and the voyages they made, many of them as surgeons to the Royal Navy. However the book could really have benefited from better editing. It's littered with grammatical errors, misused words, overly convoluted sentences and badly organised paragraphs.
If this book had been around when I had been a young botany student I would have found it both an inspiration and a cautionary tale!
Seeds of Blood and Beauty by Ann Lindsay, published by Birlinn
Disclaimer: I won this book in a Facebook competition run by Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust
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