William T. Stearn

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William Thomas Stearn
Born 16 April 1911

William Thomas Stearn CBE (16 April 1911 – 8 May 2001) was a British botanist known for his expertise on the history of botany and in the classical languages. His work is widely read, with his etymological dictionary of Latin names of garden plants likely the best-known of the works appearing under his own name. Among botanists his Botanical Latin, now in its fourth edition (1992), is a standard reference.

Stearn obtained a BSc in biology in 1931 and, an AB in classical philology in 1932.[clarification needed] He was Librarian of the Royal Horticultural Society from 1932–1951 (with a break for war service), having been "discovered" by the horticulturalist E. A. Bowles while working in a bookshop in Cambridge.[1]

He was President of the Linnean Society (named after the 18th-century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus) from 1979 to 1982 and in 1976 was awarded their Gold Medal (now the Linnean medal) and then in 1993 the Engler medal in gold. He was also the recipient of the Asa Gray Award in 2000, the highest honor of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists. He has sometimes been referred to as "the modern Linnaeus".[1]

Bibliography (incomplete)[edit]

  • The Art of Botanical Illustration (1950, with Wilfrid Blunt)
  • Great Flower Books, 1700-1900 : A Bibliographical Record of Two Centuries of Finely-illustrated Flower Books (1956), Sacheverell Sitwell, Wilfrid Blunt and Patrick Millington Synge, Atlantic Monthly Press (1990) ISBN 0871132842, the bibliography edited by Patrick M. Synge and compiled by W.T. Stearn, Sabine Wilson and Handasyde Buchanan, with a foreword by S. Dillon Ripley
  • Botanical Latin (four editions, 1966–92)
  • Captain Cook's Florilegium (about Banks' Florilegium, 1973, with Wilfrid Blunt)
  • The Australian Flower Paintings of Ferdinand Bauer (about Ferdinand Bauer, 1976, with Wilfrid Blunt)
  • The Natural History Museum at South Kensington (about the Natural History Museum, London, 1981)


  1. ^ a b Ursula Buchan (2007). Garden People: Valierie Finnis and the Golden Age of Gardening. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-51353-8. 
  2. ^ "Author Query for 'Stearn'". International Plant Names Index.