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Arber, Agnes

school cambridge plant laboratory

née Robertson (1879–1960) British botanist: her careful investigations of plant structure made a lasting contribution to botanical knowledge.

Agnes Robertson became an enthusiastic student of botany while attending the North London Collegiate School for Girls. The school was unusually good in its teaching of science and it was there that she learned about plant anatomy and classification. The school had a Science Club to which , who had also attended the school, gave talks on botany. After taking degree examinations at University College, London, and Newnham College, Cambridge, Agnes Robertson became a research assistant to Ethel Sargant at her private laboratory and worked on seedling structures. From 1903–08 she returned to London to take up research on gymnosperms.

After her marriage in 1909 she worked at the Balfour Laboratory in Cambridge until 1927 and thereafter in her own laboratory at home. For the next 50 years her researches were mainly concerned with the anatomy and morphology of monocotyledonous plants and her researches were gathered into book form. She published Herbals, Their Origin and Evolution (1912), Water Plants: A Study of Aquatic Angiosperms (1920), and Monocotyledons (1925). She also produced in the Cambridge Botanical Handbook series The Gramineae: A Study of Cereal, Bamboo, and Grass (1934). In 1946 she was elected to the fellowship of the Royal Society; she was the third woman to receive the honour. After the Second World War she turned more to philosophy and wrote The Natural Philosophy of Plant Form (1950), The Mind and the Eye (1954) and The Manifold and the One (1957).

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