Ernest Charles Nelson

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Ernest Charles Nelson (15 September 1951, Belfast, Northern Ireland) is a botanist who specialises in the heather family, Ericaceae, especially Erica, and whose past research interests included the Proteaceae especially Adenanthos.[1] He is the author or editor of over 24 books and more than 150 research papers (usually signed E. Charles Nelson). He was honorary editor of Archives of Natural History (the journal of the Society for the History of Natural History) between 1999 and 2012, and is honorary editor of Heathers (yearbook of The Heather Society).

Nelson was educated at Portora Royal School (Enniskillen), and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in botany at the Aberystwyth University. He then moved to Australia where he obtained a PhD from the Australian National University (Canberra) in 1975, for his studies into the taxonomy and ecology of Adenanthos. He then returned to Ireland, taking up the position of horticultural taxonomist at the Irish National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin (Dublin). While based in Dublin he was one of the founding members of the Irish Garden Plant Society, chairing the inaugural meeting;[2] he was subsequently made an honorary member. His interest in the history of Irish gardens and their plants continues, and he is co-president, with David Gilliland, of the Northern Ireland Heritage Gardens Committee[3] which he was instrumental in establishing in 1980. He writes frequently on Irish garden history for The Irish garden magazine.

Since 1996 he has lived in Outwell, near Wisbech, in England and worked as a freelance botanist, author and editor, frequently leading botanical holidays especially to Crete. His more recent publications include a biography of John Scouler, a Scottish naturalist who was Professor of Mineralogy to the Royal Dublin Society, published in June 2014 by the Glasgow Natural History Society.[4] In April 2014 the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland issued Nelson's biography of the botanical artist and plantsman, Lady Charlotte Wheeler-Cuffe; entitled Shadow among splendours: the adventures of Lady Charlotte Wheeler-Cuffe among the flowers of Burma 1897-1921.[5] The book is illustrated with examples of her paintings and lengthy extract from her correspondence to her mother. In collaboration with David J. Elliott, Executive Director of the Catesby Commemorative Trust, Nelson edited the Trust's book The curious Mister Catesby - a naturalist explores new worlds[6] which was published for the Trust by the University of Georgia Press in April 2015. On 5 February 2015 he was made a Trustee of the Catesby Commemorative Trust.

In May 2013, he received the Society for the History of Natural History's Founders' Medal,[7] and in February 2015 the Royal Horticultural Society awarded him the Veitch Memorial Medal.[8] In September 2016, at the Annual General Meeting of The Heather Society, the Society's Award of Merit was given to Nelson and to Daphne Everett for their work on the Society's behalf. Most recently, on 3 December 2016, Nelson was one of three recipients of the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland's prestigious Medal of Honour; the co-recipients were Helen Dillon and Thomas Pakenham.

Nelson is a patron of the Friends of St Clement's Church, Outwell,[9] a registered charity established to help preserve and restore the unique mediaeval carvings in the church,[10][11] and he serves as honorary membership secretary of the Friends of St Clement's.[12]

Notable publications[edit]

Two of Nelson's books have been awarded the accolade of "Reference Book of The Year" by the Garden Media Guild (formerly the Garden Writers Guild): in 2001, A heritage of beauty. The garden plants of Ireland. An illustrated encyclopaedia (ISBN 0-9515890-1-6), and in 2012,[13] Hardy heathers of the northern hemisphere: Calluna, Daboecia, Erica (ISBN 978-1-84246-170-9).

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