Patrick Matthew of Gourdiehill ~ Arboriculturist and Evolutionist

Patrick Matthew of Gourdiehill (1790-1874), writer on arboriculture and evolutionary theory, was born into a minor family of Perthshire landowners (Carse of Gowrie). He was educated at Perth Academy before going up to Edinburgh University to study medicine. Unfortunately, after his mother’s death, Patrick Matthew was forced to give up his studies and assist with the running of the family estate. This was the making of him as an expert in arboriculture. On the estate Patrick Matthew experimented with the nursing of trees and orchards building up an extensive knowledge and insights into the field. This knowledge was put to good use in his publication, Naval Timber and Arboriculture in which Matthew put forward (in an appendix) many of the ideas later to be published (independently) by Charles Darwin in his Origin of the Species. When Darwin’s theories of evolution entered the public domain, Matthew attempted to obtain for himself some recognition of his earlier work. He attained limited acknowledgement and died in obscurity. In 1839 Patrick Matthew authored Emigration Fields – The Cape, America, Australia and New Zealand.

Patrick Matthew is buried in the cemetery of Errol Parish Church.

Dr Michael Sutton of Nottingham Trent University argues that not only was Patrick Matthew cited for his Evolutionary theory by The Natural Process of Selection over 27 times pre “Origin of the Species” but that five of those citations came from close Darwin associates and colleagues. It has also been found that the basis for Darwin’s 1840 papers as well as his opening to “Origin of the Species” on the artificial selection analysis of the development of the Pippen Apple was taken from Matthew’s 1831 book “On Naval Timber and Arboriculture” … which seems to credibly show that Darwin … who had no experience in orchard husbandry knew of Matthew’s publication much earlier than he so piously claimed in 1860 when confronted by letter to the “Gardner’s Chronicle”. Darwin intentionally misled many to believe that Matthew’s “On Naval Timber and Arboriculture” was an obscure book that contained little beyond the stated theoretical material in the appendages. Michael Sutton “Nullius in Verba–Darwin’s Greatest Secret”. (Information provided  by Howard L. Minnick, third great grandson of Patrick Matthew)

March 2016 saw Dr Michael Sutton resent his thesis to the Carse of Gowrie Sustainability Group at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie. A challenge to Dr Sutton’s thesis has come from Dr J F Derry author of Darwin in Scotland: Edinburgh, Evolution and Enlightenment and Visiting Scientist, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh. Dr Derry: ‘While Matthew was “clearly a great man of vision”, he did not influence the course of evolutionary history in the way that is claimed.’ Dundee Courier, 19 March 2016.