Thomas Andrew Knight was born at Wormsley Grange, Herefordshire in England in 1759 into a wealthy landed family (the family estate was 10,000 acres). He studied at Balliol College, Oxford University and after marriage in 1791 moved to Elton Hall where he constructed a greenhouse. In 1786 he began his serious studies of grafting and breeding fruit trees including apple, sweet cherry, plum, nectarine and pear. He also crossed cultivars of strawberry, potato, cabbage and peas. Knight is also well known for his physiological experiments on plants, such as the influence of gravity upon growth.

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