Benjamin Rush by Charles Wilson Peale. circa 1818.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh has had its hand in shaping the careers and fortunes of many in our long history.  We’ve trained countless horticulturalists, botanists, taxonomists and medical doctors. One of those doctors went on to become a signatory of the Declaration of Independence – Benjamin Rush of Pennsylvania. 

Nine years prior to signing the Declaration of Independence, in 1767, Benjamin Rush was in Edinburgh attending Professor John Hope’s lectures as part of his medical degree at the University of Edinburgh. John Hope was our 4th Regius Keeper and Professor of Botany and Materia Medica at the University of Edinburgh.

Interestingly in 1767 there were six other American students attending Hope’s lectures – one from Maryland (Gustavus Richard Brown), 4 from South Carolina (Thomas Caw, Isaac Chanler, Charles Drayton, Peter Faissoux) and one from Virginia (James McClurg).

Also present was Francis Garden, from Aberdeenshire, whose half-brother was Alexander Garden of Charleston, South Carolina, after whom the Gardenia is named. Of course while some supported the revolution (like Rush) – Garden was a loyalist, who ultimately had to return to Britain.

In 2016 as part of the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers series, Henry Noltie from the Botanics gave this presentation as an overview to what Rush and the other American students would have been taught by Hope during their time in Edinburgh.

Its over an hour long so I’d grab some coffee and get comfortable…