Ellen Hutchins - Ireland's First Female Botanist

By Madeline Hutchins, Laura Briscoe

Apr 7 2019

Between 1805 and 1813, in Ballylickey on the shores of Bantry Bay, South West Ireland, a young woman was showing "extraordinary talents and no less extraordinary industry" in applying herself to the serious study of a "curious and difficult" branch of botany - the cryptogams or non-flowering plants - seaweeds, lichens, mosses and liverworts.

In these eight years, aged twenty to twenty seven, Ellen Hutchins discovered a great number of species that were new to science or new to Ireland, and made a significant contribution to the understanding of the cryptogams especially seaweeds. She also produced hundreds of exquisitely detailed watercolour drawings of seaweeds to help fellow botanists understand their growth. She corresponded with, and was held in high regard by some of the leading botanists of her time. Ellen’s achievements are all the more impressive when we know that she suffered from periods of ill health throughout her life, had caring responsibilities for her mother and a disabled brother, and died young, just before her thirtieth birthday.


Hutchins, M. 2015. Ellen Hutchins: Ireland's First Female Botanist. Available at: https://www.ellenhutchins.com (Accessed: 21 Mar 2019).