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John Gerard


See also John Gerard, S.J.

John Gerard (Nantwich, 1545 – February, 1611/12 in London [1]) was an English herbalist famous for his herbal garden. After being educated in Willaston near Nantwich he started to study medicine and travelled widely as a ship's surgeon. From 1577 on, he supervised the gardens of Lord Burleigh in London. In 1595 Gerard became a member of the Court of Assistants in the Barber-Surgeon's company, in 1597 he was appointed Junior Warden of the Barber-Surgeons, in 1608 Master of the same.

In 1596, he published a list of plants cultivated in his garden at Holborn, still extant in the British Museum, in 1597 his famous herbal. In 1633 an enlarged and amended version was printed. Gerard used the Materia Medica of Dioscorides, the works of the German botanists Fuchs and Gesner and the Italian Matthiolus.

The General Historie of Plants is famous for the detailed descriptions of plants, the folklore contained in the articles and its splendid prose. Its origins are somewhat controversial. The Queen's printer John Norton had commissioned a Dr. Priest to prepare an English-language translation of Rembert Dodoens' immensely popular herbal. Priest having died before completing the work, Norton asked Gerard to take over. Gerard finished the translation, rearranged the work, and added as-yet-unpublished material of an herbalist named l'Obel. However, in the herbal Gerard states that Priest's translation had disappeared and that he had written a new book. Modern-day authorities disagree as to the extent of original work in Gerard's herbal.

Linnaeus honoured Gerard in the name of the plant genus Gerardia.


  • Marcus Woodward (ed.) Gerard's herbal. The history of plants (London, Senate 1994).
  • Duane Isely, One hundred and one botanists (Iowa State University Press, 1994), pp. 46-48
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "John_Gerard". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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