We're often told that science changed our world. In this series, Lisa Jardine explores how the world changed science, pushing it in new directions, creating new disciplines and pioneering new approaches to scientific understanding.
Lisa Jardine describes how the desire to build an empire promoted a keen scientific interest in plants, in this second of her Seven Ages of Science, exploring the history of modern science in Britain. We needed to understand what plants existed in the world and how they might be grown for profit elsewhere in the tropics. In the Age of Exploration, the early British Empire was an international botanical empire.
In the 1700s, scientifically-minded men devoured stories of exotic new worlds from the comfort of their London coffee houses. In the 1800s, an explosion in overseas trade allowed young men with an interest in the natural world to discover strange new species for themselves. The known world was expanding, science started to look outwards.