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Barbara Pickersgill

13 May 1940

Barbara Pickersgill is an English horticultural botanist and geneticist whose research into plants and botany has made her an expert on the capsicum chilli pepper.

Pickersgillwas born in 1940 in Yorkshire, England. With her interests firmly in the domain of plants, she went on to study Horticultural Botany at the University of Reading in 1962, travelling to America after that to pursue a PhD in Botany at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Her PhD was on The variability and relationships of Capsicum chinense, which has some of the hottest cultivars in the world. This stimulated her lifelong interest in the origins and dispersals of Neotropical crops that cover the region of South America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Pickersgill has an interest in the use and conservation of crop genetics. She researched the evolution and taxonomy of cultivated plants and the conservation of crop biodiversity. She also has a particular interest in the genetic diversity, conservation and improvement of tropical plant species including quinoa and the Musa species of banana from the highlands of East Africa. Her research projects also include the study and effects of the domestication of crops, using the common bean as a case study.

Pickersgill's studies include the wild chilli in order to improve domesticated species of peppers and she researched the biology of capsicum and the evolutionary process that created so much diversity among various chillies.

In 1993 the Linnaen Society awarded Pickersgillthe Linnaen Medal for her contribution to botany and in appreciation of her 'service to science'. Later in 2006 the Society held a one-day conference to honour her. In 2000 Pickersgill became President of the Society for Economic Botany. She retired from the University of Reading in 2005 after more than 30 years in teaching and research and is now an Honorary Research Associate there.