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John Claudius Loudon: Home

John Claudius Loudon

Image: John Claudius Loudon, engraving self portrait from book titled "Self instruction for young gardeners..."


John Claudius Loudon was born April 8th, 1783 at Cambuslang, Lanark county of Scotland. As a young boy he enjoyed books and learning French and Latin. His love for landscape gardening began after inheriting a garden from his father, where he sowed seeds and made garden beds. In Edinburgh, he went to school where he later trained to become a nurseryman and landscape gardener (1)

In 1806, Loudon was a member of the Linnean Society and became acquaintances with Sir Joseph Banks. Loudon moved to England where he suddenly began to cope with severe inflammatory rheumatism. The illness caused him to walk with a limp due to a stiff knee and have left arm contractions (2). He then suffered an accident in 1820, resulting in a broken arm and after undergoing an ineffective surgery, his right arm was amputated;along with the thumb and two fingers of his left hand. Despite the adversities Loudon faced, he continued to progress in his career, publishing books with the assistance of his wife, Mrs. Jane Webb Loudon (3). Loudon’s written works included many titles such as: 



Promoting natural history, landscape design and horticulture, Loudon created the “Magazine of natural history…”(1829) and the “Gardener’s magazine” (1826). The periodicals helped readers discover naturalist facts, varying observations, behaviors and new information about British plants and animals. Loudon became well known for his landscape and plant cultivation expertise, and landowners sought Loudon’s advice regarding ground and estate improvements. His knowledge helped design glasshouses, conservatories, cemeteries, hothouses at Birmingham Botanic Gardens and England’s first public park with railings for inclusiveness, the Derby Arboretum (4, 7).

Image Courtesy of BHL: Magazine of Natural History, 1829 (left) and Gardener's Magazine, 1826 (right)

His reputation and innovative breakthroughs drew the attention of renowned American botanist John Torrey. In 1941, Loudon wrote three letters to Torrey and Scottish nurseryman, George Thorburn and in the letters he “thanks Torrey for sending both books and specimens, which he has studied and now proposes to return, via George Thorburn, along with copies of his own publications; the third letter is addressed to George Thorburn, asking him to deliver his letters and package to Torrey in New York. He also briefly discusses some confusion he is having regarding the genus Ulmus, and the obsolete plant name Empetrum conradii is mentioned”(5).  After corresponding with Torrey and Thorburn, Loudon succumbed to his death and passed away due to lung disease in 1943. The original letters remain a part of John Torrey papers, available in the New York Botanical Garden Archives and online via the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL).  

John Claudius Loudon and John Torrey Correspondence Letter

Image Courtesy of BHL: John Claudius Loudon and John Torrey Correspondence Letter,1841

With over 40 years of extensive literary research, garden visits and labor, Loudon's described as a man who "lived a full, varied, and occasionally adventurous life, unencumbered by any misgivings about his personal abilities" (6). His energy and enthusiasm to disseminate information and interest in landscape gardening allowed him to formulate his own “Gardenesque” art style, influencing Victorian designs in gardens and public parks. Demonstrating one’s disability is not an inability or identity, Loudon did not let his disabilities hinder his impact in the horticulture industry. A pioneer in landscape design, Loudon remains a respected member in the botanical community.



  1. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "John Claudius Loudon." Encyclopedia Britannica, 4 Apr. 2024.

  2. “Proceedings of Learned Societies: Linnean Society.” The annals and magazine of natural history, zoology, botany and geology: incorporating the journal of botany, no.91, United Kingdom, Taylor & Francis, 1844, pp.294. 

  3. “Obituary." The annals and magazine of natural history, zoology, botany and geology: incorporating the journal of botany, no.81, United Kingdom, Taylor & Francis, 1844, pp.78.

  4. National Gallery of Art. "J. C. (John Claudius) Loudon." History of Early American Landscape Design, . 21 Sep 2021.

  5. "J.C. Loudon and John Torrey correspondence, 1841." Mertz Library Catalog:Item record Summary, August 2006.

  6. Curl, James Stevens. “John Claudius Loudon and the Garden Cemetery Movement.” Garden History, vol. 11, no. 2, 1983, pp. 133–56. JSTOR.

  7. Hadfield, Miles. "Garden Design Ahead of its Time." Country Life, May 1970.

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