John Hutchinson (botanist)

John Hutchinson (botanist)

John Hutchinson (7 April 1884 Blindburn - 2 September 1972 London) was a renowned English botanist, taxonomist and author.

Life and career

Born in Blindburn, Wark on Tyne, Northumberland, England, he received his horticultural training in Northumberland and Durham and was appointed a student gardener at Kew in 1904. His taxonomic and drawing skills were soon noticed and resulted in his being appointed to the Herbarium in 1905. He moved from assistant in the Indian section to assistant for Tropical Africa, returning to Indian botany from 1915-1919, and from then on was in charge of the African section until 1936 when he was appointed Keeper of the Museums of Botany at Kew. He retired in 1948 but continued working on the phylogeny of flowering plants and publishing two parts of "The Genera of Flowering Plants". Awarded honorary degree of LL.D. by University of St Andrews in 1934, the Victoria Medal (horticulture) in 1944 for outstanding contributions to horticulture, elected a member of the Royal Society in 1947, Linnaean Gold Medal in 1968 and the O.B.E. shortly before his death. Commemorated in the genus "Hutchinsonia" Robyns. He is cited as Hutch. in botanical taxonomy, a name used by many of his colleagues and friends. His profound knowledge of the floral structure of the Phanerogams was probably greater than that of any other living botanist.

John Hutchinson proposed a radical revision of the angiosperm classification system devised by Hooker and by Engler and Prantl that had become widely accepted during the 20th century. At its simplest, his system suggested two main divisions of angiosperms, herbaceous and woody.

Hutchinson made two extended collecting trips to South Africa, which were recounted in great detail in "A Botanist in Southern Africa". His first visit was from August 1928 to April 1929, and the second from June 1930 to September 1930 on which occasion the expedition travelled north as far as Lake Tanganyika.

Hutchinson was married and had a daughter living in South Africa. He spent his leisure time roaming the English countryside with his wife in a caravan, describing and drawing wild flowers.

At his funeral at Mortlake Crematorium, a wreath largely comprised of South African flowers, was sent by his colleagues at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

First Southern Africa trip August 1928 - April 1929

Hutchinson arrived in Table Bay and spent the first few weeks collecting in and around Cape Town and Table Mountain, with short trips further afield. His first lengthy trip was to Namaqualand and Bushmanland with fellow botanist and succulent specialist, NS Pillans. Back in Cape Town he purchased a small Citroën car and set off on 30 October in the company of Rudolf Marloth, who left them at Barrydale, and Jan Gillett, the son of prof. Arthur Gillett of Oxford (one of the founders of Oxfam). On this occasion their route followed the southern Cape coast as far as Port Elizabeth. Here Gillett's place was taken by RA Dyer and the route veered inland to Grahamstown and Katberg, then back to the coast, visiting Butterworth, Port St Johns, Kokstad, Pietermaritzburg and Durban. From here Hutchinson travelled on his own and in Pretoria joined up with General Smuts, who was a keen and knowledgeable botanist, to the far northern Transvaal to explore Lake Fundusi, sacred to the Venda tribe.

econd African trip June 1930 - September 1930

Having met Hutchinson on his previous visit to South Africa, General Smuts invited him to join a party consisting of Margaret Clark Gillett with two of her sons Jan and Tona Gillett (Anthony), on a trip to Lake Tanganyika. They set off from Irene on 28 June 1930 in a convoy of seven vehicles and were joined at Beit Bridge by Dr. IB Pole Evans. They collected all the way to Lake Tanganyika and then retraced their route to Broken Hill, where Hutchinson boarded a goods train to Elizabethville. On his return to Pretoria, and with time in hand, he set off on a trip to the Soutpansberg with Jan Gillett. Then followed a week in the Drakensberg, climbing to the top of Mont-aux-Sources with two fellow botanists, Miss Verdoorn and Miss Forbes. A final flurry of collecting at Botha's Hill near Durban, and Port Elizabeth, saw the end of a very fruitful visit.


*"Common Wild Flowers" (1945)
*"More Common Wild Flowers" (1948)
*"Uncommon Wild Flowers" (1950)
*"British Wild Flowers" (1955)
*"The Story of Plants" with R. Melville
*"A Botanist in Southern Africa" (London, 1946)
*"Flora of West Tropical Africa" with Dr John McEwen Dalziel
*"The Families of Flowering Plants: Arranged According to a New System Based on Their Probable Phylogeny " Vol. 1 Dicotyledons
*"The Genera of Flowering Plants" (Oxford, Vol.1 (1964), Vol.2 (1967), Vol. 3 (posthumously))
*"Evolution and Phylogeny of Flowering Plants" (1969)


*"A Botanist in Southern Africa" John Hutchinson (London, 1946)
*"Botanical Exploration of Southern Africa" Mary Gunn and LE Codd (Balkema 1981) ISBN 0 86961 129 1
*"Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol. 21, Nov., 1975 (Nov., 1975), pp. 345-365"

ee also

*Hutchinson system, his taxonomic plant system.

External links

* [ Systematic botany history]

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