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RAHS Day Lecture – The Wardian Case: How a Simple Box Moved Plants and Changed the World

April 6 @ 13:00 - 14:00

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In 1829, surgeon and amateur naturalist Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward placed soil, dried leaves, and the pupa of a sphinx moth into a sealed glass bottle, intending to observe the moth hatch. But when a fern and meadow grass sprouted from the soil, he accidentally discovered that plants enclosed in glass containers could survive for long periods without watering. After four years of experimentation in his London home, Ward created traveling glazed cases that would be able to transport plants around the world. Following a test run from London to Sydney, Ward was proven correct: the Wardian case was born, and the botanical makeup of the world’s flora was forever changed.

In this presentation, Luke Keogh leads us across centuries and seas to show that Ward’s invention spurred a revolution in the movement of plants — and that many of the repercussions of that revolution are still with us, from new industries to invasive plant species.

About the speaker: Luke Keogh is a curator and historian. His book The Wardian Case: How a Simple Box Moved Plants and Changed the World (University of Chicago Press and Kew Publishing, 2020) recently won the NSW Premier’s General History Award and the CBHL Excellence in History Award. He can be reached at www.lukekeogh.com


April 6
13:00 - 14:00


Royal Australian Historical Society
(02) 9247 8001
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