Thesis Title: For the promotion of science and the prosperity of the people, Edinburgh, Florence, and Pisa: Three public botanic gardens in the late Enlightenment
Supervisor: Drs Sarah Easterby-Smith and Professor Aileen Fyfe
My research focuses on the evolution and shaping of botanic gardens as public institutions in the second half of the eighteenth century. By funding and supporting those gardens, authorities such as George III of England and Pietro Leopoldo of Tuscany were recognising that they had a role to play on a national level, but the nature of this role varied from garden to garden. Teaching, developing science, improving agriculture, educating the public, attracting tourists, or demonstrating power and influence over the world were some of the functions that could be attributed to botanic gardens, but different gardens would emphasize them differently, focusing solely on a few or diversifying their activities to include all of them.
The thesis focuses on the case studies of four publicly funded or supported gardens in Edinburgh, Florence, and Pisa. By using a comparative approach between Scotland and Tuscany, two countries at the margins of late Enlightenment Europe who had lost a lot of their political influence on the international scene, I want to understand why European leaders and elites would invest in public botanic garden and who would benefit from it. The comparison will also be used to see if there were European trends in the scientific culture of the Enlightenment, in particular on themes like the education of the people and the utility of science.
AHRC Doctoral Training Studentships with the SGSAH
“We have been absolutely inattentive to the natural productions of our native Country”, the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh as a Centre for the study of Scotland, Annual BSHS Postgraduate Conference, European University Institute, Florence, 5-7 April 2017.