The Annual Ethnobotany Lecture was founded in 2000 and is a highlight of the academic year for the postgraduate programme. It is sponsored jointly by the Centre for Biocultural Diversity at Kent and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. The lectureship is awarded to ethnobotanists who have made a significant impact on the subject, and who have established a reputation in the public understanding of science. Recent lecturers have included Gary Martin, Victoria Reyes-Garcia, Will McClatchey and Nancy Turner.
Annual Kent-Kew Distinguished Ethnobotanist Lecture 2017
In the footsteps of Rumphius: history and ethnobotanical entanglements in the spice islands
Emeritus Professor Roy Ellen, FBA
University of Kent
17.00 - Tuesday 10 October, 2017
Anyone embarking on the ethnobotanical study of the Moluccan islands (the spice islands) of eastern Indonesia will encounter the names and reputations of three naturalists: Alfred Russell Wallace, Henry Forbes and Georg Rumphius. The third of these, Rumphius, has been a kind of intellectual partner in my own research over a period of almost 50 years. In this lecture, I wanted to show how Rumphius was not only an important figure in the history of botany - a precursor to Linnaeus -, but also how an examination of his work sheds light on both the historical ethnobotany of the seventeenth century Ambonese people he lived and worked with, and how Rumphius himself makes an intriguing subject for a study of European natural history at a crucial moment in its transition from a kind of ethnobotany to what we would today understand as biological science. Rumphius' insights have impacted my own investigation of the plant knowledge practices of the Nuaulu people of Seram in numerous and sometimes surprising ways. The lecture discussed some examples of the productive engagement between puzzles in Nuaulu ethnobotany, my own attempts to interpret them, and the observations of Rumphius.
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