John Hope (botanist)

Professor John Hope FRSE FRS PRCPE (10 May 1725 – 10 November 1786) was a Scottish physician and botanist. Although he did enormous work on plant classification and plant physiology, due to an absence of publications, he is now best known as an early supporter of Carl Linnaeus's system of classification.

John Hope
John Hope. Coloured etching by J. Kay, 1786. Wellcome V0002873.jpg
Born(1725-05-10)10 May 1725
Died10 November 1786(1786-11-10) (aged 61)
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
University of Paris
ChildrenRobert Hope, Marianne Hope, John Hope, Thomas Charles Hope, James Hope
Scientific career
FieldsBotany, medicine
InstitutionsPresident, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (1784-1786)
King's Botanist (1761-86)
Professor of Botany, University of Edinburgh
Author abbrev. (botany)Hope
The Hope grave, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh
The tablet to John Hope, Greyfriars Kirkyard

In 1783 he was a joint founder of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

In 1784 Hope was elected as president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (1784-6).

Early lifeEdit

Born in Edinburgh on 10 May 1725, John Hope was the son of surgeon Robert Hope and Marion Glas, and a grandson of Archibald Hope, Lord Rankeillor, a Senator of the College of Justice who was in turn the son of Sir John Hope, 2nd Baronet. He was the great-grandson of Sir Thomas Hope, 1st Baronet.

He was educated at Dalkeith Grammar School, then studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He took leave to study botany under Bernard de Jussieu at the University of Paris, but returned to his studies in Scotland, graduating MD from the University of Glasgow in 1750.[1]

For the next decade he practiced medicine, indulging in botany in his spare time. With the death of Charles Alston in 1760, he succeeded him as the 4th Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and King's Botanist and as Professor of Botany and Materia Medica at the University of Edinburgh. However Hope saw his responsibility for materia medica as a threat to his work in botany, and therefore arranged for the chair to be split: Hope became Professor of Medicine and Botany, and a separate chair of Materia Medica are created.[2]

In 1763, Hope succeeding in combining the gardens and collections at Trinity Hospital and Holyrood to a new, combined site on the road to Leith. He also succeeded in obtaining a permanent endowment for the garden, thus establishing arguably the first ever "Royal Botanic Garden". Though he published only a few papers, and is therefore little remembered as a botanist, he made many early physiological experiments. These informed his teaching, but were not published, and were only discovered in his unpublished manuscripts many years after his death.[2] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in February 1767.[3] He was appointed Physician in Ordinary to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in 1768.

In later life he lived at High School Yards on the southern edge of the Old Town.[4]

He died in Edinburgh on 10 November 1786, and was interred at Greyfriars Kirkyard.[1]

Botanical ReferenceEdit

The genus Hopea is named after Hope.[1]


He was married to Juliana Stevenson, sister of Dr Alexander Stevenson, also a joint founder of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.[6][7]

The couple had the following children:[8][7][9]

  • Robert Hope
  • Marianne Hope, d. 1837, married James Walker, Esq.
  • Major John Hope, (1765-1840)
  • Thomas Charles Hope, FRSE, (1766-1844)
  • James Hope WS, (1769-1842)

His grandson, John Hope WS (1807-1893) founded the Hope Trust.

Academic offices
Preceded by
Dr John Gardiner
President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Succeeded by
Dr James Hay


  1. ^ a b c Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783-2002: Biographical Index (PDF). I. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  2. ^ a b Balfour, Isaac Bayley (1913). "A sketch of the Professors of Botany in Edinburgh from 1670 until 1887". In Oliver, Francis Wall (ed.). Makers of British Botany. Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ "Library and Archive Cataloue". Royal Society. Retrieved 20 November 2010.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1773-74
  5. ^ IPNI.  Hope.
  6. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  7. ^ a b Hope (1914). "Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire". Google Books. Burke's Peerage Limited. pp. 1034–1035. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  8. ^ David Jamie (1907). John Hope: Philanthropist & Reformer. Internet Archive. Hope Trust. Retrieved 27 May 2017. john hope botany.
  9. ^ "Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Volume 16". Google Books. Royal Society of Edinburgh. 1849. p. 419. Retrieved 29 May 2017.