Women and botany

This post was written in relation to the College’s Physicians' Flowers exhibition.

Gynaecological plants

Very early on, people discovered certain plants’ effects on the female body and developed the use of contraceptives, abortifacients, or even pregnancy tests with the plants’ help. Ancient historians and researchers on the history of medicine have long been researching and studying recipes and ingredients which members of ancient societies used for birth control.

Deadly Nightshade: A Botanical Biography

This post was written in relation to the College’s Physicians' Flowers exhibition.

Deadly Nightshade - Atropa belladonna  

Atropa belladonna is more commonly known as the deadly nightshade and is possibly one of the most famous dangerous plants. It has a long and twisted history of various medicinal, murderous, and cosmetic uses and sometimes plays quite sinister roles in folklore and legends.

Early Life and Family   

Elizabeth Blackwell: prison, plotting and the Curious Herbal

Elizabeth Blachrie was the daughter of a wealthy stocking merchant in Aberdeen. Her second cousin Alexander Blackwell was the son of Thomas Blackwell, Professor of Divinity at Marischal College, and Principal of the University between 1717 and 1728. By the age of fifteen Alexander is said to have become an accomplished Greek and Latin scholar. He then attended Marischal College where he became distinguished for his knowledge of the classics, and also studied French. According to one account it was during this time that he secretly married Elizabeth.

William Turner and the first English herbal

William Turner's 1551 work is the first original scientific herbal written by an Englishman and the first published in the English language.  Both physician and botanist, he was also a supporter of the Reformation, and twice had to flee England.  During his enforced travels he recorded and collected European flora.  His 'Newe herball' was published in 1551, three years after returning from his first exile abroad.

Basil Besler's Hortus Eystettensis

In 1768 an honorary fellow of the College and the first Scottish-born British Prime Minister, John Stuart 3rd Earl of Bute, gave a impressive collection of botanical books to the Royal College of Physicans of Edinburgh.  This included a copy of Hortus Eystettensis.

The creator of this particular book, Basil Besler, was a Nuremburg apothecary and botanist. He also cared for the garden of the Archbishopric of Eichstätt in Bavaria.