Knight, Thomas Andrew 1759-1838

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Thomas Andrew Knight was born at Wormsley Grange, Herefordshire in England in 1759. His father had inherited great wealth and the family estate was comprised of 10,000 acres of land.

Knight spent some time at Balliol College, Oxford University. After marriage in 1791 he moved to Elton Hall where he constructed a greenhouse in accordance with his plans and developed a walled garden.

Knight began his work in 1786 grafting fruit trees and breeding fruit trees including apple, sweet cherry, plum, nectarine and pear. He also crossed cultivars of strawberry, potato, cabbage and peas. At one time he had 20,000 apple seedlings.

He also conducted physiological experiments such as the influence of gravity upon growth and he probably has actually been associated more with this type of research than with his fruit breeding. All his personal papers mysteriously disappeared which presumably included the date recorded from his rather extensive experimental work.

Knight contributed to the well-known and very influential Transactions of the Horticultural Society of London which appeared in several volumes. These volumes included reports of observations of many well-known men of his time including well known botanists. He was also the author of Pomona Herefordieneis (1809) which contains very fine hand-colored illustrations of fruit. These illustrations are among the best ever published anywhere in the world. In 1797 he published Treatise on the Culture of the Apple and Pear which went through 4 editions to 1818.

He became a member of several American horticultural societies. Many of his papers were published in 1841 in A Selection from the Physiological and Horticultural Societies by the late Thomas Andrew Knightto which is prefixed a sketch of his life .

Thomas Andrew Knight was the most distinguished horticulturist of his time. He was an excellent fruit breeder but few of his cultivars are now available. His theory of the degeneration or "running out" of fruit has now been disproved but he was an exceptionally fine observer of the horticulture of his time.

His family farm with some remaining cherry trees developed by him were extant in West England in 1933 when the writer visited the precise walled garden which he developed.

Early Plant Breeding in Europe


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