The Botanic Garden Delft University of Technology (Botanic Garden TU Delft) is the brainchild of engineer and professor of microscopic anatomy Gerrit van Iterson Jr (1878-1972). A man who championed the use of scientific knowledge to solve the practical problems of the society of his day, Van Iterson thought that plants could play a vital role in advancing such efforts. By gaining greater insight into plant anatomy, he believed that it would be possible to gain more insight into their technical capabilities too.
In the early twentieth century, Dutch industry was in urgent need of engineers and technologists who were knowledgeable about the industrial applications of plant materials, many of which had their origins in the Dutch East Indies. Van Iterson’s chair at TU Delft, which combined microscopic anatomy with expertise on botanical raw materials, met this demand. In 1917 the Culture Garden of Technical Crops was inaugurated. The forerunner of the modern-day Botanic Garden, over the next hundred years it evolved to become a green laboratory in which innovative and sustainable solutions were developed to address a wide range of societal challenges – from inventing a method to combat harmful particulate matter to researching wild plant species to aid in dyke reinforcement.
Though small in scale and perhaps not appealing at first glance, the fascinating story behind the Botanic Garden TU Delft brings the garden to life. This centenary book tells that story. It is a tale of brilliant scientists and unconventional geniuses who were willing to go to the limit to accomplish their ideals and who were far ahead of their time. Looking back one hundred years later, it is clear that their contributions were instrumental in building the innovative knowledge industry for which Delft is now recognized worldwide.
Trudy van der Wees (b. 1960) is a journalist and copywriter and the author of several books about Delft. Her previous Dutch publications include: Door Delftsblauwe ogen. In de ban van een nationaal icoon, Bezeten van muziek. Het universum van Pierre van Hauwe and Delft 40- 45.