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Tradescant, John (II)

1. Dates
Born: Meopham, Kent, 4 Aug. 1608 At least he was baptized on 4 August.
Died: South Lambeth, Surrey, 22 April 1662
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 54
2. Father
Occupation: Miscellaneous
John (I) Tradescant, a gardener and natural historian. I categorize him as gardener (i.e., Miscellaneous).
The father came to own fairly extensive property, and was clearly prosperous.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: No University
King's School, Canterbury.
No university education.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
Like his father, he was steadfast in his attachment to the established church.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Natural History, Botany
Like his father, Tradescant was a skilled gardener, and his claim to be a scientist is minimal. He did make three expeditions to Virginia, and he collected specimens, especially plants, while he was there.
Musaeum Tradescantianum, 1656. The collection (originally assembled by John I Tradescant, the father) recorded in this publication passed, after Tradescant's death, through the hands of Ashmole to Oxford, where it bears Ashmole's name rather than Tradescant's.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Miscellaneous, Personal Means, Patronage
Secondary: Merchant
Gardener to Queen Henrietta Maria, 1638-42 (when the Queen fled the Civil War). Tradescant succeeded his father; as with his father I categorize him both under Gardener (Miscellaneous) and under Patronage. His status appears to me as a perfect embodiment of the ambiguity of patronage relation.
From his father he also inherited the museum, which continued to be run as a commercial enterprise. After the Parliamentary victory and the termination of his relation with the court, the museum was Tradescant's principal means of livelihood. Although I did not find an explicit reference, I assume that like his father he also operated the garden as a commercial nursery.
There is evidence that he functioned as a merchant in overseas trading during the late 50's.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Physician
Queen Henrietta Maria. Add that Tradescant dedicated the second edition of Musaeum Tradescantianum, 1660, to Charles II, and that when an official tried to make Tradescant get a license to operate the museum, Charles gave him a warrant to proceed without one.
Possibly Elias Ashmole should be mentioned here. He financed the publication of Musaeum in 1656. However, the conventional wisdom (which is supported by considerable evidence and thus accepted by me) is that Ashmole was then already scheming to get the collection into his own hands. I won't treat this as patronage.
Tradescant dedicated the first edition to Musaeum to the President and Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians. Tradescant was growing medicinal plants for the college at this time and was negotiating with them over the establishment of a physic garden.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Agriculture
He and his father introducted a number of new plants into England.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Company of Master Gardeners of London, 1634.
  1. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 19, 1072-4. Edward F. Rimbault, "Family of the Tradescants," Notes and Queries, 3 (1851), 353-5.
  2. S.W. Singer, "Tradescants and E. Ashmole," Notes and Queries 5 (1852), 367-8, 385-7.
  3. Richard Pulteney, Historical and Biographical Sketches of the Progress of Botany in England, (London 1790), 1, 177-9.
  4. Mea Allan, The Tradescants: Their Plants, Garden and Museum 1570- 1662, (London, 1964). Don't waste your time--romantic vaporings.
  5. Prudence Leith-Ross, The John Tradescants: Gardeners to the Rose and Lily Queen, (London, 1984). Much the best source that I have found.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

1995 Al Van Helden
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