David Douglas is one of the most famous botanists in British history and made a huge impact on the field. He was born in Scone, Perthshire, Scotland, in 1799 and began his botanical education at the age of 11. His introduction came during several years working at Scone Palace as an apprentice to Head Gardener William Beattie. Following the completion of the apprenticeship he took a role at Valleyfield before moving on to Glasgow University’s botanic garden.
His biggest move followed this, securing an appointment at the Royal Horticultural Society in London. He made his impact on his field during several trips to North America on their behalf. During these expeditions he collected samples to be introduced into the UK when he returned. Several hundred varieties of trees and flowers have flourished in Britain and across Europe as a result of his work.
Douglas is best remembered for the species of tree that bears his name; the Douglas fir. The introduction of the fir helped to transform the forestry industry in the UK and Europe. On top of this a large number of plants had douglasii in their scientific name to commemorate his work with them. Some of these were changed but many still exist.
The work Douglas did and his lasting legacy is also commemorated with a memorial in his home town. The piece can be found in the churchyard at Old Church. It was erected in 1847, 13 years after he died on an expedition in Hawaii.
The memorial has a beautiful design that includes highly detailed carvings. It also has two marble panels with words about his life, character and botanical accomplishments engraved on them. The panels were recently restored after years of weathering had harmed the legibility. This careful work included repainting the 1,548 letters.
This is a fantastic example of the great work that goes in to restoring and retaining the historically significant memorial plaques, headstones and other memorials around the UK. They deserve this kind of care and attention, especially when they feature eye-catching designs and celebrate the incredible contributions people make to society.
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