Australian Orchids and the Doctors they Commemorate Part 2 of 20

In continuing this series of Professor John Pearn, links have been provided for the genera or species mentioned.  In this group most of them are from limited locations in Queensland.

Orchids named after medical professionals

Sixteen doctors who practised medicine and/or botany in Australia have their names recorded in the scientific names of 24 indigenous orchids of Australia. In addition, one separate species (Thelymitra flexuosa, also known as Thelymitra smithiana) and five genera of indigenous Australian orchids record the names of European doctors, pharmacologist–pharmacists or herbalists. The five genera are Burnettia Lindl. (described by John Lindley in 1840), a monospecific genus; Cadetia Gaud. (described by Charles Gaudichaud-Beaupré in 1829); Goodyera R.Br. (described by Robert Brown in 1813); Robiquetia Gaud. (described by Charles Gaudichaud-Beaupré in 1829); and Vrydagzynea Blume (described by Carl Ludwig Blume in 1858).

The Lizard Orchid, Burnettia cuneata, blooms in eastern Australia and Tasmania; it commemorates Gilbert Thomas Burnett (1800–1835), surgeon and foundation professor of botany at King’s College London.

In the genus Cadetia (delicate white orchids), four species are named after the apothecary of the French imperial court, Charles-Louis Cadet de Gassicourt (1769–1821) — C. collinsii, C. maideniana, C. taylori and C. wariana. They commemorate his life and works as an apothecary, soldier, scholar, writer, scientist and researcher.

The genus Goodyera is named after the 17th century herbalist John Goodyer (1592–1664).

Robiquetia commemorates Pierre Jean Robiquet (1780–1840), a French pharmacist, organic chemist, professor and foundation member of the Académie royale de Médecine (1820). He was the first to describe an amino acid (asparagine) (1806), and he characterised caffeine (1821) and discovered codeine (1832).

One species out of the 40 species of the Tonsil Orchids, Vrydagzynea grayi, grows in Australia. A rare orchid of the Daintree rainforest in north Queensland, it commemorates Theodore Daniel Vrydag Zynen (fl. 1850), a Dutch pharmacologist and contemporary of one of the most famous doctor–orchidologists, Karl Ludwig Blume (1796–1862). The Twisted Sun Orchid, Thelymitra flexuosa, commemorates the Norwich physician and friend of Joseph Banks, Sir James Edward Smith (1759–1828). When he was 25 years old, Smith took the decisive action to buy the great Linnean collection of plants, which were in danger of being lost to science following the death of Linnaeus’s son in 1783. Smith bought them when they were offered for sale in 1784. In conjunction with the bishop of Carlisle, he founded the Linnaean Society of London and was its first president. In 1798, he raised the new genus, Diuris, which is one of the first taxa of Pacific orchids to be described. The Lilly Pilly, Syzygium smithii, is another of his six botanical memorials.

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