Mary Gunn, botanical book collector


The Mary Gunn Library dates back to 1916 and will celebrate its centenary this year. Today, Ms Mary Gunn’s efforts are reflected in this library’s being one of the most important botanical and biodiversity resources in Africa. Subjects covered in the collection include taxonomy, biodiversity, climate change, global warming, morphology, plant anatomy, plant geography, ethnobotany, conservation ecology, history of botany, palaeobotany and plant exploration.

Figures like Gunn are interesting - she didn’t do science herself, but her work collecting books on botany and researching the biographies of the writers and botanical collectors was still essential in creating an invaluable resource.

Reminds me of Anne Sheepshanks, sister of the astronomer Richard Sheepshanks, who was made an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society and donated much of her brother’s equipment, library and donated money to the Society and Cambridge University. Her donations were incredibly important, but it’s hard to winkle out the full story of her contributions as she’s usually only mentioned in passing.