Uncovering the secrets of pioneering doctors' gardens
Press release issued: 12 January 2011
Funded by a grant from the Wellcome Trust, Dr Clare Hickman of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology will investigate how surgeon John Hunter and vaccination pioneer Edward Jenner used their gardens to further their outstanding medical activities.
Funded by a grant from the Wellcome Trust, Dr Clare Hickman of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology will investigate how surgeon John Hunter (1728-93) and vaccination pioneer Edward Jenner (1749-1823) used their gardens to further their outstanding medical activities.
John Hunter’s garden at Earl’s Court, London housed a menagerie of exotic and domestic animals that he employed for observation, experimentation and dissection – activities which were directly related to his pioneering surgical work. This garden eventually took on mythological status: in one illustration produced soon after Hunter’s death a two headed beast is shown wandering around it.
Edward Jenner also used his garden and the surrounding landscape at Berkeley, Gloucestershire, to observe the natural world and conduct experiments. Through this work, Jenner developed his insight into smallpox which eventually led to his developing a life-saving vaccine for the disease. He also built a small rustic hut in the garden – dubbed the ‘Temple of Vaccinia’ – in which he vaccinated the poor of the area against the disease free of charge.
Dr Hickman said: “Designed landscapes of this period have generally been described in terms of their aesthetics, pleasurable uses or as displays of power. However, they were also used as laboratories and places of spectacle by medical men.
“My project will use the history of the gardens to enrich our understanding of Hunter and Jenner, their relationship and their experimental natural history work in reference to their medical practice.”
The project’s findings will contribute to ongoing research, public engagement and restoration activities, particularly at the Jenner Museum in Berkeley, Gloucestershire.
Dr Clare Hickman is a Research Assistant on the Leverhulme-funded Historic Gardens and Landscapes of England Project and is also working on a book on the history of English hospital gardens for Manchester University Press.