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John Gerard
See also John Gerard, S.J.

John Gerard (Nantwichmarker, 1545 – February, 1611/12 in Londonmarker [55626]) was an Englishmarker herbalist famous for his herbal garden. After being educated in Willastonmarker near Nantwich he started to study medicine and travelled widely as a ship's surgeon. From 1577 on, he supervised the gardens of William Cecil, Lord Burghley 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 rare plants cultivated in his garden at Holbornmarker, still extant in the British Museummarker, and in 1597 his famous Great Herball, or General Histoire of Plantes. In 1633 an enlarged and amended version was printed for which Gerard used the Materia Medica of Dioscorides, the works of the German botanists Fuchs and Gesner, and the Italian Matthiolus. The 1597 and 1633 editions are commonly referred to as Gerard's Herbal.

The origins of the Great Herball, famous for the detailed descriptions of plants, the folklore contained in the articles and its splendid prose, 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 Gerard finished the translation, rearranged the work, and added as-yet-unpublished material of an herbalist named l'Obel.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.

Gerard's Herbal was later revised by John Goodyer and Thomas Johnson.

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

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