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Bio

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Judith Taylor’s Biography
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I am a board-certified neurologist who was born in London and educated at Oxford. The history of medicine and its companion discipline, the history of botany have always interested me. For millenia, medical treatment relied almost completely on the extracts of plants. I have published a number of short pieces on medical and botanical history, and participated in several symposia.

For many years I practiced neurology and taught at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York for many years. Subsequently I became a medical administrator, working first for the city of New York and later for two large insurance companies.

In 1994, my husband Irvin, an ophthalmologist, and I decided to retire to San Francisco. At first we lived in Marin County. The garden at this house needed a lot of work. We were able to lay out just what we wanted, using Mediterranean plants suited to the climate. Among other things, we planted two dozen olive trees. The beauty of the landscape and the olive trees lead me to write my first book, The Olive in California: history of an immigrant tree, (Ten Speed Press 2000).

The decision to write about California’s olive trees required a great deal of delving into California’s history, particularly its agriculture and horticulture. These topics are not taught in English schools! The process was enormously enriching and laid the groundwork for Tangible Memories.

While doing the research for the book about the olive trees, I found an unpublished manuscript lying in a box in the University of California’s archives. This was Harry M Butterfield’s California Gardens of Memory, the basis of Tangible Memories: Californians and their gardens 1800 to 1950. Harry Butterfield had died in 1970 before he could get his work published. No one was aware of this manuscript.

It was the culmination of a lifetime of study. Butterfield basically established the field of California horticultural history by himself, writing a long series of articles in the horticultural literature over many years. He did not publish any books. Butterfield spent his entire professional life at the University of California at Berkeley in the agricultural extension department.

I began this second book by contacting as many local history societies and garden clubs as possible and then travelled all over the state seeking old gardens. I took courses at the University of California at Berkeley Extension Program and joined the California Garden and Landscape History Society. Everyone was extraordinarily helpful.

Pursuing the migration of plants led me to write a third book: The Global Migration of Ornamental Plants: how the world got into your garden. The foundation of the book is a quantitative analysis of how many plants entered the United States from the Orient and the Southern Hemisphere and when this occurred. This book was published in 2009.

My fourth book is about the lives and work of the great hybridizers: “VISIONS OF LOVELINESS; great flower breeders of the past”, by Ohio University Press and is now available for purchase.

I am about halfway through a sequel, covering plants which are not in volume 1.