After what seems like an age toiling away at the HTML/PHP/CSS coal face, I think that the new Bot Soc web site should be declared open for business. Not that I did most of the work, the scripting was done by John Garlinge of JDG Web Design, my role was more project management. What am I on about, I hear you ask. Well, the Botanical Society of Scotland (or Bot Soc to it friends) now has a nice shiny new web site, which I am in the process of adding the finishing touches to. However, as with all living web sites it will never be truly finishing, web sites are (or should be) dynamic and constantly, if they are static they are dead.
The Botanical Society of Scotland was founded in 1836 as the Botanical Society of Edinburgh mainly for the purpose of collecting and exchanging botanical herbarium specimens. Monthly meeting were also held between November and July for the reading of “papers and communications on Botanical subjects” this a tradition which continues, as is the tradition of “making Botanical excursions”. It is interesting that from the start “Local Secretaries” where appointed, while we still have a number of Local Secretaries they are restricted to Scotland and sadly no longer scattered across the globe, in such places as London, Dublin, Monmouth, Wiltshire, Cape of Good Hope, Madras, Jamaica, Switzerland and United States.
By 1840, the Society’s herbarium had accumulated over 50,000 specimens, not just from the British Isles, but from around the world, including the Alps, the Indian subcontinent, the west Indies, “New Holland”, and “a small collection of about 100 species obtained during Captain Parry’s voyages”. This collection was later (1863) to form the basis of the Herbarium collection of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, now one of the best in the world. This was followed in 1872 by the donation of the Society’s small, but valuable, library to the RBGE.
The first meeting to discuss the formation of the Society was held at the home of John Hutton Balfour (later Professor of Medicine and Botany at the University of Edinburgh, Regius Professor of Botany, Keeper of the Garden and Queen’s Botanist in Scotland) on the 9th of February, and was attended mainly by students of the University of Edinburgh. However, by the time it was inaugurated on the 17th of March, it had a far wider membership. The members consisted of “Honorary, Resident, Non-resident, and Foreign Members”, also “Ladies, who shall be denominated Life Members”. This was just as well, as the Society’s first Patron was HRH Queen Victoria, her husband Albert was also a member. Resident members (i.e. those living in Edinburgh) were required to pay One Guinea on admission to the Society and One Guinea annually thereafter at the November meeting. Persons not residing in Edinburgh could join if they were “recommended by two members of a Scientific or Literary Society, and paying a contribution of Three Guineas”, however no annual payment was required. Ladies, “whether Resident or Non-Resident” could become life members for a single contribution of Two Guineas. Membership rates nowadays start from a more reasonable £15, which you can even pay on-line.
The Society has always attracted an international membership, as the founding rules allowed a “Person residing abroad” to be admitted as a “Foreign Member, on the transmission of 500 specimens of Plants (including at least 100 species)” or provide a piece of work which they had written. Among the foreign members listed in 1840 were: His Majesty Frederic Augustus, King of Saxony, Adolphe Brongniart Professor of Botany Paris, Auguste Pyrme De Candolle Professor of Natural History Geneva, Benjamin Baron de Lessert, Elias Freis Professor of Political Economy Upsal, Janus Wiken Hornman Professor of Botany Copenhagen, Alexander Baron De Humboldt Berlin, G. Daniel Joseph Koch Professor of Botany Erlangen, Henry Frederick Link Professor of Botany Berlin, Charles Frederic Philip de Martius Munich, C.F. Briasseau Professor of Agriculture Paris, Christian Gottfried Nees von Esenbeck Professor of Botany Breslau, Auguste De St Hilaire Paris, Le Chevalier Michael Tenore Professor of Botany Naples, John Torrey Professor of Botany Chemistry New York, Ludovic Christian Treviranus Professor of Botany Bonn, Le Chevalier Govanni Gussone, and Adrian De Jussieu Professor of Botany Paris (he even got his face on the Society’s medallion). Not bad for an organisation which had started just four years earlier, more or less as a student society, the Bot Soc of the University of Edinburgh, but then this was Edinburgh and not some quiet backwater in the English Midlands.
The Society started its first Journal “Transactions of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh” in 1844 (from which the much of the information above has been gathered). The name of the journal was changed to “Botanical Journal of Scotland” in 1990, and still continues today as “Plant Ecology & Diversity“.
So if you are interested in things Botanical, go and have a poke around.