Research resources

 

On this page you can:

find out how Ellen’s botanist friends described her character, knowledge and skills

browse round a panel,

At Ballylickey, from the exhibition, Ellen Hutchins: the young woman, her work and her world, with information on her family, childhood, illness, caring responsibilities, and her looks, character and spirit

learn more about her letter writing

find out about James Mackay’s role in Ellen’s life

discover more about the amazingly strong friendship that developed between Ellen and the eminent botanist Dawson Turner. 

 

Ellen's character, skills and knowledge

DESCRIPTIONS FROM HER BOTANIST FRIENDS

 

We have wonderful descriptions of Ellen’s character, and her skills and knowledge, by her botanist friends. Some of the language they use needs a bit of explanation.

 

They described Ellen in the following ways:

 

”Her earnest kindness and liberality.”

“The extraordinary talents and no less extraordinary industry which she displays in the

 pursuit of Natural History.”

“Her science is only equalled by her liberality.”

“Although stationed at such a distant outpost of the scientific world, she is thoroughly

 and minutely acquainted with the plants of her neighbourhood.”

“Miss Hutchins amazed me by the extent and depth of her botanical knowledge.”

 

“Her zeal and knowledge in these plants.”

 

 

Three years after Ellen’s death at the young age of twenty nine, her great botanist friend, Dawson Turner, wrote a tribute to her in his book of seaweeds. He wrote about “her liberality, her pleasure in communicating knowledge, and her delight in being useful.” He also wrote:

 

“Botany had lost a votary as indefatigable as she was acute, and as successful as she was indefatigable.”

 

A modern ‘translation’ of the underlined piece is:

Botany has lost a devoted supporter who was always determined and energetic in trying to achieve something and never willing to admit defeat. She was equally strong in her understanding and insight.

 

Votary is usually used to describe a person who has made a promise to serve a particular religion or god, but can also be a devoted or strong supporter of a cause or an ideal. Ellen was devoted to the ideal of increasing botanical knowledge. 

Indefatigable means always determined and energetic in trying to achieve something and never willing to admit defeat. It is a very good description of Ellen and her botany.

Acute is one word not two, and has nothing to do with “cute” as in soft and cuddly. It’s most often used to mean "sharp" or "severe" or "intense" in phrases such as “Suddenly I felt an acute pain in my arm”. (In geometry it means an angle of less than 90 degrees.) In its other meaning, it is understanding, insight or perception. 

 

ELLEN AT HOME

The panel below, At Ballylickey, is from the exhibition, Ellen Hutchins: the young woman, her work and her world. It contains information on her family, childhood, illness, caring responsibilities, and her looks, character and spirit. You can view and download a high resolution of the panel here.

 

 

IN HER OWN WORDS: ELLEN'S LETTERS

Ellen’s letters are a valuable source of information. Learn more about her letter writing here.

Listen to readings of extracts from Ellen’s letters that show her character and her spirit beautifully, and which tell us something about her life and her botany

 

 

ELLEN AND JAMES MACKAY

One of Ellen's correspondents was fellow botanist James Mackay of Trinity College Dublin. more here.

 

 

ELLEN AND DAWSON TURNER

Ellen and Dawson Turner struck up an amazingly strong friendship through plants and letters. See more here 

 

Outside of folded letter, Ellen to Dawson Turner

Dawson Turner, aged 40 in 1815

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Key to abbreviations used in photo captions

HFC  - Hutchins Family Collection  KEW - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London

NHM - Natural History Museum London. TCC  - Trinity College Cambridge. TCD -  Trinity College Dublin