Taylor, Judith M. 1934-

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Taylor, Judith M. 1934-


Born July 26, 1934, in London, England; daughter of Max (an optometrist and writer) and Fanny (an office manager) Mundlak; married Irvin S. Taylor (a medical doctor), November 23, 1961; children: David Henry, Hugh Benjamin. Education: Somerville College, Oxford, B.A., 1956, M.A., 1959; Oxford University, B.M., B.Ch., 1959. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, music, cooking.


Home—San Francisco, CA; fax: 415-563-3741. E-mail—[email protected]


Kings County Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY, resident in Neurology, 1960-61; Bronx Municipal Hospital Center, Bronx, NY, resident in neurology, 1961-65; Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, clinical instructor, 1967-76, associate clinical professor of neurology, 1976-82, and history of medicine, 1976; Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, Brooklyn, medical director, and president of Medical Associates of Woodhull, 1982-83; Mobile Health Services, Pelham Manor, NY, medical director, 1983-86; Travelers Health Network of New York and New Jersey, director of medical administration, 1986-92; Tristate Health Care Management, director of medical services for New York, New Jersey, and southern Connecticut, 1992-94. Board certified by American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (Neurology), 1966, American Board of Qualification in Electroencephalography, 1976, and American Board of Quality Assurance and Utilization Review, 1991. Attending physician at Burke Rehabilitation Center, 1965-75, Municipal Hospital Center, Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, White Plains Hospital, Lawrence Hospital, and Philps Memorial Hospital, between 1965 and 1978. Also affiliated with Institute for Health Care, United Hospital Fund, Rockefeller Foundation Division of Health Sciences, and other institutions; consultant; conference presenter.


American College of Physician Executives, Medical Administrators' Conference, New York Academy of Medicine (fellow), San Francisco Garden Club (honorary librarian, 2001—).


Physicians' Recognition Award, American Medical Association, 1976.


The Olive in California: History of an Immigrant Tree, Ten Speed Press (Berkeley, CA), 2000.

(With Harry Morton Butterfield) Tangible Memories: Californians and Their Gardens, 1800-1950, Xlibris (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.

Also author of the book The Global Migrations of Ornamental Plants: How the World Got into Your Garden, Missouri Botanical Garden Press (St. Louis, MO). Contributor to scientific books. Author of column, "Doctor at Play" in Bulletin of the Westchester County Medical Society, 1971-74. Contributor to periodicals, including Pacific Horticulture, Western States Jewish History, American Primrose Society Journal, Rare Book Review, Eden, Nature, Neurology, Journal of Neurosurgery, Neurology, and Ophthalmology.


Judith M. Taylor once told CA: "One does what comes easily. As a child, I was able to write school essays without too much difficulty, and received high grades. This reinforcement was valuable. My father was an amateur writer who had had several books published. Both my sons had books published. Pride demanded that I too join this family endeavor. After all, had I not always been told I was good at writing?

"While I was engaged in the practice of neurology, I wrote a number of cameo pieces for the local medical journals in New York, as well as academic articles. A book eluded me. I certainly had no gift for fiction. It was not until we retired to California and planted a truly California garden that the inspiration and key idea arose.

"Northern California has a Mediterranean climate, and I decided to plant two dozen olive trees. They are ineffably lovely and I wanted to find out more about them. No book existed. It dawned on me that in this situation I should be the one to write the book. Never mind that I knew no more than the average well-educated person about these trees, the notion kept going around and around in my head, giving me no peace. The result was The Olive in California: History of an Immigrant Tree.

"It was as if a flood gate then opened. Doing the research, and traveling all over the state to learn about its history and the stories of people who had grown olive trees all their lives, was so enriching that the book was almost just a bonus.

"The principal influence on my writing style was the English teacher at my school in London, back in the dark ages when things were still very strict. Seven years at Oxford honed those skills. When you have to write an essay every week during term for four years about a wide range of scientific topics and defend them to your tutor, your writing develops a lot of polish.

"Among modern writers, John McPhee is one of my icons. He combines encyclopedic knowledge with a riveting narrative, a narrative which yet has a slight crisp edge to it. Kevin Starr is another model. His ability to see unique aspects of even quite ordinary events and clothe them in golden prose continues to amaze me."

Taylor later added: "Publishing The Olive in California caused a major change in my life. I was no longer merely a retired physician and tentative amateur, but now I had a clear goal and idea of where I was going. As you can tell, I delved into horticultural history and found several niches.

"Tangible Memories: Californians and Their Gardens, 1800-1950, was the result of finding an unpublished manuscript in a box in the archives at the University of California, Harry Butterfield's work formed the core of my book. It required a great deal of augmentation and rewriting. I put both names on the cover when it appeared.

"Butterfield collected the dates at which new plants were introduced into California. This led me to my next book, The Global Migrations of Ornamental Plants: How the World Got into Your Garden. I examined how many plants in our present gardens actually originate elsewhere. Using different sources of evidence, I satisfied myself that the descendants of exotic plants form the majority of plants sold and grown in the United States today.

"From this I recognized how important the role of the plant breeder had become. Almost nothing has been written about the people who transformed sometimes-scraggly little bushes into the exquisite shrubs (and so forth) that populate our gardens. Their work also gave rise to the modern floral industry, a huge, vertically integrated, transnational business nowadays. Working plant group by plant group, I am writing a Race Apart: Plant Breeders and Their Obsessions. This month I am doing sweet peas. People who spend years and years modifying plants often have very unusual personalities. Obsession is not too strong a word for it.

"I continue to recognize my debt to my wonderful English teacher at high school and the firm guidance of my tutor at Oxford. She is still very vigorous at ninety years of age. I still consider John McPhee and Kevin Starr to be significant icons, but English garden writers from the middle of the twentieth century are some of my latest interests. Vita Sackville-West ‘used up all the oxygen,’ but a handful of other writers emerge as quite important. I am making a special study of Richard Gorer, who first introduced me to the significance of plant breeders.

"For relaxation I write the program notes for two local chamber music societies. The University of California at Berkeley very obligingly built a new music library on campus just about the time I started to do this."



Hort Historia,http://www.horthistoria.com (December 27, 2007).

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