A Book Review

posted in: Book Review, History | 0


Doctors in the Medicinal Garden—Plants named after Physicians

Author: Dr. Henry Oakeley, FRCP, FLS
Publisher: The Royal College of Physicians
London 2012


All gardeners who have ever wondered how plants got their common and botanical Latin names will enjoy this book. The emphasis is on physicians as gardeners for good reasons.

Up until about 200 years ago, all botanists were physicians and all physicians were botanists. Some important figures in medical history of classical antiquity were all gardeners (or herbalists, as they’re sometimes called) included Hippocrates (460–375 B.C.E.), Theophrastus (371–287 B.C.E.), Pliny the Elder (23–79 C.E.), Dioscorides (40–90 C.E.), and Galen (129-200 C.E.). The list of these figures is very long and spans the ages, but it should include Dr. William Withering, who deserves special recognition for his discovery of the medicinal properties of the foxglove and for the way he proved its efficacy in the treatment of dropsy when it is caused by heart failure.

Given the enormous importance of plants in medical practice in all times and in all cultures, it should come as no surprise that gardening is a favorite avocation of physicians even today.

The book has excellent photographs and botanical drawings accompanied by a synopsis of each plant and a biography of the physician associated with it.

View a tabulation of some of the plants with the botanical name, common name, and the physician associated with it.