Retiral of man who got garden to grow

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Professor Stephen Blackmore, Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, has stepped down, after 14 years at the helm.

Born in Stoke-on-Trent on July 30, 1952, the son of Edwin Arthur and Josephine Blackmore, he was educated in Hong Kong and then at Reading University, where he graduated with a BSc in 1973 and a PhD three years later.

He worked for a year at the Royal Society Aldabra research station in the Seychelles before moving to the University of Malawi to be head of the National Herbarium and a lecturer in botany.

Back in Britain, he joined the Natural History Museum, London, in 1980. He was appointed the museum’s Keeper of Botany in 1990, serving until 1999, when he took up the post of Regius Keeper Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) – Britain’s second-oldest botanic garden, based at Inverleith since 1820, having started life as a “physic garden” for growing medicinal plants in Holyrood Park in 1670.

Prof Blackmore’s research has concentrated in the areas of palynology (study of plant organisms) and botanical microscopy. He was one of the pioneers of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.

His time in charge at RBGE will be remembered particularly for the opening of the purpose-built John Hope Gateway visitor centre in 2011 and education improvements focused on the garden’s glasshouses.

As well as maintaining a significant personal research programme and producing numerous scientific papers, he also wrote two popular books: Gardening the Earth and Green Universe.

Sir Muir Russell, chairman of RBGE trustees, said: “Steve Blackmore has led RBGE with vision, inspiration and commitment to consolidate and enhance its position as one of the top few scientific botanic gardens in the world with unique, distinctive, achievements in many areas of our science. Scotland can be proud of RBGE and of Steve, who is recognised internationally for what he has achieved.”

Prof Blackmore is recognised as the Regius Keeper who put RBGE at the vanguard of international research and conservation.

He said: “My time at the Botanics has been deeply rewarding and much has been achieved, enabling us to strengthen our position as one of the world’s leading scientific botanic gardens. It is only through the dedication and commitment of RBGE’s staff, associates and volunteers that we have been able to achieve so much in recent years. I want to thank everyone for their part in our success.”

Prof Blackmore – who is married with a son and daughter – will remain in the role of Queen’s Botanist in Scotland and intends to keep close links with the wider research and conservation work of the organisation, while pursuing other interests.