Botanical gardens: Padua, 1543

Botanical gardens: Padua, 1543

The sixteenth century also saw the establishment of the first formal university teaching positions in botany.The first botanical lectureship was set up in 1514 at the University of Rome, while a chair of botany was established in 1533 at the University of Padua.

A natural next step was to furnish select institutions with gardens from which to draw material for remedies as well as lectures. Precedents were readily available in the 'physic gardens' planted to supply monasteries with medicinal plants.  In 1543 -- year in which Vesalius published De fabrica-- the first university botanical garden was founded in Pisa. 

Two years later, Vesalius's alma mater followed suit. Although Padua's was not the first such foundation, it can plausibly claim to be the oldest extant botanical garden in any university in the world, since its rival in Pisa was subsequently shifted from one site to another. In fact, as the series of images shows, the Orto botanico in Padua still preserves not only the site but also the basic configuration of beds established at its foundation.

Soon other botanical gardens were sprouting up, first in Italy and then abroad: the first botanical garden in England was founded in Oxford in 1621.