skip to content

Department of Plant Sciences

John Stevens Henslow, Dame Ottoline Leyser and Harry Marshall, all professors of Botany at Cambridge

This year the Department of Plant Sciences is celebrating 300 years since the appointment of the first Professor of Botany at the University of Cambridge. 

300 years of Botany at Cambridge

From the appointment of the first Professor of Botany to our most recent research, the University’s rich legacy in botany is marked by pioneering achievements.

Cambridge researchers have made notable discoveries in plant genetics, physiology and diversity.

  • Professor Richard Bradley (1724) was a pioneer in plant reproduction, an understanding of which underpins breeding of modern crop varieties. 
  • Professor Sir David Baulcombe (2007) discovered entirely new mechanisms of gene regulation opening new approaches for defending crops against predators and making them resilient to climate change. 
  • Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser (current) discovered the processes by which hormones regulate the basic structure of plants, which helps us design crops that are suited to our needs.

300th anniversary celebrations

To mark these achievements and celebrate the 300th anniversary, we are:

  • Publishing monthly research stories to highlight some of the discovery science the department is currently engaged in.
  • Honouring the pioneering Cambridge botanist Agnes Arber – the first woman botanist to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society – with a blue plaque and a new PhD prize. 
  • Hosting an inaugural lecture for David Edwards, Professor of Plant Ecology and head of the Tropical Ecology and Conservation group at Cambridge.

Find out more and support Plant Sciences

Support Plant Sciences

Find out how you can get involved and help support the next generation of plant scientists. 

Research stories

Find out about current areas of interest and future research challenges – a series of monthly research stories by current academics in the department.

Department of Plant Sciences timeline

Read more about the scientific achievements and developments that have happened within the Botany School, now the Department of Plant Sciences, over the last few hundred years. 

Read more
•    Celebrating the 300th anniversary of the first Professor of Botany
•    Pioneering Cambridge botanist remembered with a blue plaque and a new PhD prize

Image: left to right - John Stevens Henslow, Dame Ottoline Leyser FRS and Harry Marshall Ward FRS - fourth, 16th and sixth Professors of Botany at Cambridge respectively. Image credits: John Stevens Henslow, T.H. Maguire, U.S. National Library of Medicine. CC.; Ottoline Leyser. Mike Thornton. Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University; Harry Marshall Ward. Wiki Commons.