Science in the Pleasure Ground: A History of the Arnold Arboretum

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Northeastern University Press, 1995 - History - 349 pages
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One of Boston's most beautiful and treasured outdoor spaces, the Arnold Arboretum is a living museum of trees and shrubs, a public park, and a laboratory for scientific investigation. The unique, intricate garden is admired worldwide as a model for naturalistic landscape architecture. In this generously illustrated volume, Ida Hay provides the first comprehensive history of the Arboretum's pioneering role and contemporary significance in successfully blending scientific endeavors with public recreation and aesthetic display. Her engaging narrative focuses on the lives, contributions, and interrelationships of those who founded and developed the Arboretum, beginning with the grant of land in Jamaica Plain to Harvard University by Benjamin Bussey and the endowment provided by James Arnold. These founding events are set against the background of scientific developments in the biological sciences and popular interest in horticulture and naturalistic landscape design in early nineteenth-century New England. The significant contributions of Charles Sprague Sargent, the first director, and the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted provide the heart of the dynamic story behind the design and construction of the Arnold's grounds. Sargent's fifty-year administration established the plan for collecting and displaying its trees and shrubs for the education and pleasure of visitors. He also created and managed the worldwide scientific research of the institution, while simultaneously pursuing an active career in research and writing himself. The interaction of scientific research and public education was embodied in the first director, who created and implemented the dual mission of theArboretum: "science in the pleasure ground". The leadership of subsequent directors of the Arboretum - Oakes Ames, Elmer D. Merrill, Karl Sax, Richard A. Howard, Peter S. Ashton, Robert E. Cook - reflected new priorities in scientific research and collection policies for the herbarium and living museum, and their responses to changing public interests and tastes. The story highlights the effects of natural disasters - hurricanes and severe winters - and the impact of an increasingly urban environment on the living collection of woody plants. This exquisite work will be of interest to historians, horticulturists, landscape architects, botanists, amateur gardeners, and anyone who enjoys the naturalistic setting of the Arnold Arboretum and similar arboreta throughout the United States.

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