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David Mabberley

Professor David Mabberley, Emeritus Fellow, Wadham College

Since David Mabberley retired from the New South Wales Public Service, where he was Executive Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in Sydney, he has been able to return to research and writing.

Now an Adjunct Professor at Macquarie University Sydney, as well as Emeritus Professor at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands, he is a Fellow of the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Chairman of the International Association for Plant Taxonomy’s General Committee for Plant Nomenclature (the international body that determines the correct names to be used for plants) and a member of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (based at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK, where he was Keeper of the Herbarium, Library, Art and Archives, 2008-2011).

His researches largely concern the evolution, systematics, ecology, nomenclature and cultural significance of plants, particularly tropical trees, and have always concentrated on those of economic significance - including mahoganies, apples, grapes and, particularly now, citrus - in the light of the devastating disease now threatening the future of the citrus industry. More here. Among a number of international research projects, he is working with Leipzig botanists on a molecular phylogeny of part of the mahogany family; with New Zealand and other botanists on the origin of the cultivated apple, using molecular techniques; and with Spanish botanists on a phylogenetic analysis of plants used by humans.

He is also interested in the history of science and of botanical art. In 2017 appeared ‘Joseph Banks’ Florilegium: Botanical treasures from Cook’s First Voyage’ (Thames & Hudson, with Italian and American editions; shortlisted for Apollo Awards Book of the Year 2018 and awarded the American Botanical Council’s James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award for 2017 and the 2019 Award of Excellence in Botanical Art and Illustration from The Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries). The same year saw his second book on the natural history artist Ferdinand Bauer (1760-1826), ‘Painting by numbers – the life and art of Ferdinand Bauer’ (NewSouth, Sydney; awarded the 2018 Thackray Medal of the Society for the History of Natural History, London).His most recent books (2019) are ‘Botanical Revelation: European encounters with Australian plants before Darwin’ (NewSouth, Sydney) and (with an upcoming Spanish translation) 'The extraordinary story of the apple' (senior author, Barrie Juniper, St Catherine's).

He is now preparing the fifth edition of 'Mabberley's Plant-book: a dictionary of plants, their uses and classification' (ed. 4, CUP 2017, third ed. of 2008 receiving the International Association for Plant Taxonomy’s Engler Medal in Silver 2009), besides writing a book on the citrus catastrophe. With Annette Giesecke (University of Delaware), he is general editor of Bloomsbury's upcoming 'A cultural history of plants' (six volumes).