Dr. Patrick Neill

1776 - 1851

Naturalist and author, who became a central figure of the later Scottish Enlightenment. Born in Edinburgh and educated at the University of Edinburgh - although he never graduated - Neill inherited a successful printing business and developed this further, giving him the means to pursue his interests as a naturalist and botanist. He never married but devoted his energies to his garden in Canonmills, which including several newly-introduced species and was open to visitors. He also served as a town councillor in Edinburgh and was responsible for planning West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh following the draining of the Nor Loch in 1820 and intervened to preserve several antiquities that were on the point of being demolished.

He published a Tour through Orkney and Shetland (1806) which was notable because it described poverty amongst the inhabitants of these Northern Isles. He wrote an article on Horticulture for the Encyclopædia Britannica (1840) which was subsequently extended and republished as The Flower, Fruit, and Kitchen Garden. He also published an account of his travels through Europe and wrote a number of scientific papers.

Neill was a founding member of both the Wernerian Natural History Society (1808) and the Caledonian Horticultural Society (1809). He also served as President of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh (1842-43). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1814 and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Edinburgh.

He died at his home in Canonmills and lies buried in Warriston Cemetery. He made generous bequests, including to the Caledonian Horticultural Society to found a medal but he is mainly remembered today for having endowed the Neill Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The genus Neillia is named in his honour.

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