Thomas Meehan

Thomas Meehan was born on March 21, 1826 in England.  He began learning about plants when he was a little boy.  His father taught him.  When he was fifteen he made his first discovery.

Parts of a Plants

Photo Courtesy of The Visual Dictionary

Royal Gardens of Kew

Picture Courtesy of Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew

 He wanted to learn more about botany so he read books.  Meehan went to school at the Royal Gardens of Kew.  After he graduated he came to America.  He was twenty-two years old.

He worked at several different nurseries.  A nursery is a place where you grow plants.  While working in the nurseries he kept studying the plants.  Finally he started writing about what he had studied.  His first book was called The American Handbook of Ornamental Trees.

Calla Palustris
Picture Courtesy of The American Handbook of Ornamental Trees

Calla Palustris

Copyright Eleanor Saulys

Polypodium Incanum
Picture Courtesy of The American Handbook of Ornamental Trees

Polypodium Incanum

Copyright USC Herbarium

After the Civil War he helped write several magazines: Gardner’s Monthly, Meehan’s Monthly, and Forney’s Weekly Press.   The ideas Meehan had were very different from the other botanists. Meehan was a botanist at the same time Charles Darwin was doing his research on evolution and natural selection.  They disagreed for a long time.  He eventually agreed with Darwin and supported his theories.

  In 1877 Meehan became the state botanist for the state of Pennsylvania.  The most important book he wrote was The Native Flowers and Ferns of the United States.  He also discovered the Engelmann Canyon in the Wahsatch Mountains.

Wahsatch Mountains

Picture Courtesy of Michael D. Schroeder   


 He eventually became known as the “Dean of American Horticulture”


Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia

American Association for the Advancement of Science

American Philosophical Society

Veitchian medal for distinguished services in horticulture 


Attention teachers! This scientist has experiment videos available on the wiki. 

Web Links


Lang, H. G., & Meath-Lang, B. (1995). Thomas Meehan.  In A Biographical Dictionary: Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences
(pp.252-254). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.