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Mr John Tradescant The Elder

Early Life and Background: John Tradescant the Elder was born circa 1570 in Suffolk, England. Little is known about his early life, but it is believed that he was largely self-educated, with a keen interest in botany and horticulture from a young age. His curiosity about the natural world would later lead him to become one of the most renowned collectors and gardeners of his time.

Career and Achievements: Tradescant began his career as a gardener, working for the wealthy and influential Cecil family at Hatfield House. His talents soon gained recognition, and in 1607, he was appointed as head gardener to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury. During his tenure at Hatfield House, Tradescant transformed the gardens, introducing a wide variety of exotic plants and establishing himself as a leading figure in the field of horticulture.

In addition to his work as a gardener, Tradescant was a passionate collector of natural specimens from around the world. He embarked on several voyages to gather plants, seeds, and other curiosities, including a trip to Russia in 1618 and a journey to the Mediterranean in 1620. These expeditions provided him with a vast array of botanical specimens, which he meticulously cataloged and cultivated in his gardens.

One of Tradescant's most significant achievements was the creation of the Ark, a museum of natural history located in Lambeth, London. The Ark housed an extensive collection of botanical specimens, as well as artifacts and curiosities from around the world. It quickly became a popular attraction and played a crucial role in advancing the study of natural history in England.

Legacy and Influence: John Tradescant the Elder's contributions to botany, horticulture, and natural history were immense. His pioneering work in plant collecting and garden design laid the groundwork for future generations of botanists and gardeners. The legacy of the Tradescant family continued with his son, John Tradescant the Younger, who followed in his father's footsteps as a renowned gardener and collector.

Many plants bear the name "Tradescant" in honor of the family's contributions to botany, including the Tradescantia genus, which consists of several species of flowering plants native to the Americas. The Tradescant Collection, comprising thousands of botanical specimens and artifacts, remains an important resource for researchers and historians to this day.

He was buried at St Mary's Lambeth in 1638.


  1. Leighton, Ann. "The Tradescants: Their Plants, Gardens, and Museum, 1570-1662." London: Academy Editions, 1984.
  2. Parkinson, John. "Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris." London: Humfrey Lownes, 1629.
  3. Quinby, Jane. "America's Garden Legacy: Traditions and Innovation." Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 1995.
  4. Ribeiro, Aileen. "The Art of Botanical Illustration." Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1994.

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