World renowned botanist to visit Cruickshank Botanic Gardens

World renowned botanist to visit Cruickshank Botanic Gardens

World-renowned botanist Professor Stephen Hopper, Director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, will visit the University of Aberdeen’s Cruickshank Botanic Garden this Wednesday 11 July.

Professor Hopper will tour the Cruickshank gardens before presenting a lecture about the late University of Aberdeen academic and curator who helped influence his career.

The lecture, entitled Teacher and student: Dr Noel Pritchard and the antipodean Director of Kew  takes place in the University’s Zoology building at 6.30pm on Wednesday 11 July, and is open to all and free to attend.

Dr Noel Pritchard, who passed away in 2004 at the age of 71, was curator of the University’s Cruickshank Botanic Gardens from 1964 until he retired in 1985. Under his stewardship the gardens evolved into the botanic and tranquil space it is today.

During Dr Pritchard’s tenure the popular lecturer and leader of renowned field trips embarked on a sabbatical in Australia where he encountered and inspired Stephen Hopper.

Professor Hopper,now a world-renowned botanistwho began his directorship of Kew in 2006, said: “I owe a lot to the late Dr Noel Pritchard who spent a sabbatical in Western Australia in 1971 and taught taxonomy when I was a second year undergraduate student in the Department of Botany at the University of Western Australia (UWA).

“Noel stimulated my interest in research, especially on a student field course where we examined a hybrid population of kangaroo paws. This trip cemented in my mind what became my PhD topic and a lifelong interest in plant systematics, evolution and conservation.

“I offered to give a lecture at the University of Aberdeen as a mark of respect to my mentor from afar.  I have in mind using the case study of Noel’s sabbatical and our interaction and careers to highlight the importance of good academic teachers across the world.”

Professor Hopper is set to step down in October and will move back to his native Australia to take up the Winthrop Professor of Biodiversity at UWA. However, prior to his departure, he will be visiting the Aberdeen region again to carry out further field research of the flora of Scottish granite outcrops.

Mark Paterson, Curator of Cruickshank Botanic Gardens, said:"It is both significant and a privilege to have the Director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, visiting Cruickshank Botanic Garden. While the vital and necessary role of botanic gardens in the preservation of flora necessitates strong collaboration, so does recognition of influential individuals in the field of botany and horticulture.

“Professor Hopper's arrival takes on a poignant and personal note - that of honouring an influential teacher and botanist in the form of my predecessor, Dr. Noel Pritchard. It is very appropriate Professor Hopper's lecture will remind us that learning and plantsmanship are additional vital roles of a botanic garden.”

In June this year Professor Hopper was awarded the honour of Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), for “eminent service as a global science leader in the field of plant conservation biology”.