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Biographies of scientists and explorers
honored in the names of plants 
shown on this web site 

Last names beginning with N-Z on this page.   A-F   G-M

Navarrete, Francisco Fernandez, (d.1742): Spanish botanist, physician, and philosopher in the court of King Felipe V of Spain.  The genus Navarretia was named for him by Spanish botanists Ruiz and Pavon in 1794.  Navarretia breweri  Navarretia sinistra subspecies sinistra

Nelson, Aven, 1859-1952: Professor of Botany at the University of Wyoming, President of the University, and founder of the University of Wyoming Rocky Mountain Herbarium.  He botanized extensively in the Rocky Mountains and published such seminal works as his 1896 First Report on the Flora of Wyoming and his 1903 revision of John Coulter's Manual of Rocky Mountain Botany, newly titled, New Manual of Botany of the Central Rocky Mountains.

Newberry, John Strong, 1822-1892: American physician, geologist, paleontologist, botanist, and Professor at Columbia University's School of Mines.  In 1855 he was assistant-surgeon and geologist in Lieutenant Williamson's exploration between San Francisco and the Columbia River.  With the 1857-1858 Ives Expedition he was the first geologist to see and describe the Grand Canyon.  He was in the Macomb Expedition which explored the San Juan and upper Colorado Rivers in 1859, was appointed by Congress to the founding Governing Board of the National Academy of Sciences, was President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1867) and President of the New York Academy of Sciences (1867-91), and was an organizer and first vice-president of the Geological Society of North America.  Hymenopappus newberryi    Cymopterus newberryi  Physaria newberryi subspecies yesicola

Nocca, Domenico, 1758-1841: Italian clergyman, Director of the Botanical Garden of Montova, Italy, Director of the Botanical Gardens of the University of Pavia in Italy from 1797-1826, and Chair of the Botany Department from 1802-?   Noccaea fendleri subspecies glauca

Nuttall, Thomas, 1786-1859: Avid, expert, and intrepid collector, plant taxonomist, botanical writer, geologist, ornithologist, and Harvard instructor. Nuttall was, and is still, respected as the most widely traveled and most knowledgeable naturalist of his time. He walked and road horseback for tens of thousands of miles, often in areas no non-native had ever visited. Nuttall is praised in numerous books, articles, and newspapers from the 18th to the 21st centuries. Often these praises turn up in unexpected areas:

"Thomas Nuttall, a preeminent and far-ranging field naturalist, participated in the early scientific exploration of Arkansas and is remembered both for identifying a number of the state’s plants and for his description of early Arkansas life. His notes on people living in the territory - both Native Americans and American settlers - have provided valuable information for historians and researchers ever since they were first published in 1821." (From the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.)

Whereas most naturalist/botanists in the biographies on this web site spent a few seasons on one or two collecting expeditions, Nuttall gave 34 years of his life (from 1807 to 1841) to collecting, describing, and teaching about the flora of the continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Nuttall returned to England in 1841 when his uncle's will required that Nuttall live at least 9 months each year in England. Nuttall returned briefly only once more to the United States in 1847.

Nuttall's monumental contributions to natural history were recognized even in his early years in the United States: he was elected to the Linnean Society of London (1813), the American Philosophical Society (1817), and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (1817). He continued to receive many awards throughout his life.

As a young man, Nuttall was a printer in England for a few years, but for his health and for adventure he came to Philadelphia in the spring of 1808. His curiosity about a plant he found on the second day in his newly adopted land led him to famed University of Pennsylvania Professor and naturalist, Benjamin Barton, who was immediately impressed by Nuttall's curiosity, passion, and intellect. For many days immediately after this fortuitous meeting and for many years following, Nuttall learned from and collected for Barton.

For most of us, "Nuttall" is just a name attached to a few plants. Or perhaps we know him as a great botanist or an ornithologist. But we almost never know the true stories of such adventurers, scholars, scientists, and risk takers. I hope the biographies on my web site make you realize that this was a very real person who took very real risks and had very real joy in his quest for knowledge.

Nuttall risked injury and death on innumerable occasions as he followed his passions. From his very first botanical forays it was clear, as Durand observed,

"that Nuttall was deterred by no trifles. At the season of the year when in the Southern swamps the musquitoes were very numerous and had made such an impression upon his face and hands as unconsciously to himself to give him the appearance of a man attacked with small pox, upon approaching a habitation he was refused admittance by the people of the house and with difficulty could he persuade them that he was only bitten by insects". (Quotation from Memoir of the Late Thomas Nuttall by Durand published by the Harvard Press in 1860, just after Nuttall's death.)

In 1809 Nuttall joined famed naturalist John Bradbury for a trip west in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark:

"They ascended still higher the Missouri River and returned after having experienced the greatest fatigues and dangers. They were pursued and robbed by the Indians and Bradbury fell into their hands and was very near being massacred by them. He only saved his life by taking his watch to pieces and distributing the works among them as trinkets. As to Nuttall, overcome by fatigue and hunger and driven to despair in the midst of the wilderness and unable to go a step farther he laid himself down with resignation and would inevitably have died had he not been found by a friendly Indian who placed him in his canoe and rowed him down the Missouri River to the first settlements of the white men."

Nuttall wrote his Journey into the Interior of Arkansas in 1818 and 1819 and in his Memoir, Durand recounts several harrowing adventures:

"It was then the middle of August, the heat was excessive but could not abate the unconquerable ardor of our explorer. At last wearied by long and difficult marches under the rays of a burning sun, suffering from thirst, insufficient food, as well as from exposure to the night dews and being moreover harassed by the necessity of constant vigilance to avoid being entrapped by the neighboring Indians, his constitution sunk under so many trials of body and mind. He was seized with violent fever among the Osage tribe from whose treachery and dishonesty he experienced both losses of effects and perils of life and was long deprived of the pleasures of his usual excursions. He finally succeeded with much trouble and sufferings in reaching the garrison of Bellepoint where he remained sick until the 16th of October when he started again to visit the hot springs of Washita....

Thus did Nuttall in his enthusiastic love of science perform in the space of sixteen months an arduous and perilous journey of more than five thousand miles mainly over a country never visited before by scientific explorers and still in the undisputed possession of the wild Indian."

In 1810 on Nuttall's third collecting trip for Barton, this one to the Great Lakes, Nuttall learned of a John Jacob Astor Company trip up the Missouri, so he headed to St. Louis instead of back to Philadelphia, and in the spring of 1811 headed West on a collecting journey with the Astor Company. Nuttall collected along the route the Lewis and Clark Expedition had covered, but whereas much of Lewis' collection had been lost (see Lewis), Nuttall's fabulous collection survived.

Nuttall's companions on this and all his trips were amazed at his enthusiasm, his devotion to collecting, and his total joy in the beauty of the world they traveled through. 

Nuttall's considerable collection from the Astor trip was delayed in getting back to Barton in Philadelphia, because upon Nuttall's return to St. Louis in the fall of 1811 he, as a British citizen, felt it more prudent to return to England (via New Orleans) than risk being caught up in the imminent British/American War of 1812.

Photo of Thomas Nuttall from the Hunt
Institute for Botanical Documentation

In England Nuttall began work on his collection for Barton, and he met with Frederick Pursh to discuss their North American collections. Friction between Nuttall and Pursh (over what we would call "intellectual rights", i.e., who should receive credit for which discoveries and which plant names were to be accepted) soon prompted frantic publishing by Nuttall and Pursh in order to gain first credit. Both published a number of articles and Pursh published a two volume Flora Americae Septentrionalis (1814), using a number of Nuttall's collections  --  without giving credit to Nuttall.

Nuttall returned to the U.S. and published his own two volume work, Genera of North American Plants (1818). (Click the title to read.) Nuttall flawlessly set almost all the type himself. John Torrey, the most important botanical teacher and taxonomist of the first half of the 19th century, said that Nuttall's Genera "contributed more that any other work to advance the accurate knowledge of plants in this country". 

In 1823 he was hired by Harvard to be the Curator of the Harvard Botanical Garden and to teach a light load of natural history and botany courses. In his 10 years at Harvard he published a much sought after bird guide (Manual of Ornithology of the United States and Canada), wrote Introduction to Systematic and Physiological Botany, lectured at Yale and the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, had several sabbaticals to collect plants, was elected to more societies, and inspired students to become field botanists.

Nuttall resigned from Harvard when his friend Nathaniel Wyeth asked him to join his 1834 expedition to the Oregon coast.  Nuttall suggested taking along his young acquaintance, ornithologist John Townsend, and this was a fortuitous decision since Townsend was not only an excellent birder (his drawings were used by Audubon in Birds of America) but also a good observer who chronicled the expedition in his well written and very interesting journal, Narrative of a Journey Across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River. (Click to read.) The Appendix of the Narrative has a list of the birds Townsend saw, with notes on those that were new discoveries.

On September 12th the Wyeth Expedition neared the end of their 6 month journey across the continent and they exchanged their horses for canoes for the last few miles down the Columbia River to Fort Vancouver. They encountered terrific head winds that created such monstrous waves on the River that the canoe in front was lost sight of in each new deep trough. Townsend tells us:

The gale continues with the same violence as yesterday, and we do not therefore think it expedient to leave our camp. Mr. N's large and beautiful collection of new and rare plants was considerably injured by the wetting it received; he has been constantly engaged since we landed yesterday, in opening and drying them. In this task he exhibits a degree of patience and perseverance which is truly astonishing; sitting on the ground, and steaming over the enormous fire, for hours together, drying the papers, and re-arranging the whole collection, specimen by specimen, while the great drops of perspiration roll unheeded from his brow. Throughout the whole of our long journey, I have had constantly to admire the ardor and perfect indefatigability with which he has devoted himself to the grand object of his tour. No difficulty, no danger, no fatigue has ever daunted him, and he finds his rich reward in the addition of nearly a thousand new species of American plants, which he has been enabled to make to the already teeming flora of our vast continent. 

Nuttall and Townsend both amassed significant collections (including some from Hawaii which they visited in the winter of 1834-1835): Townsend collected hundreds of bird specimens, many of which we can now see in Audubon's Birds of North America. Nuttall, Torrey and Gray described and published Nuttall's huge plant collection about six years after the Wyeth Expedition in Torrey and Gray's, Flora of North America. (Click the title to read.)  Nuttall also published his plant finding from 1842 to 1849 in The North American Sylva.

Nuttall returned to the Northwest Pacific Coast from Hawaii in the spring of 1835 and remained collecting in the Northwest until late that year when he boarded a ship to return to Philadelphia. Nuttall collected specimens at various ports along the California coast and was most memorably found collecting shells in San Diego Bay by his former Harvard student, Richard Henry Dana, who wrote of this chance meeting in his Two Years Before the Mast (click the title to read):

[He]... was no one else than a gentleman whom I had known in my better days; and the last person I should have expected to have seen on the coast of California - Professor N[uttall], of Cambridge. I had left him quietly seated in the chair of Botany and Ornithology, in Harvard University; and the next I saw of him, he was strolling about San Diego beach, in a sailor's pea-jacket, with a wide straw hat, and barefooted, with his trowsers rolled up to his knees, picking up stones and shells....

I was often amused to see the sailors puzzled to know what to make of him, and to hear their conjectures about him and his business.... The crew christened Mr. N., "Old Curious," from his zeal for curiosities, and some of them said that he was crazy, and [it was a shame] that his friends let him go about and amuse himself in this way. Why a rich man (sailors call every man rich who does not work with his hands, and wears a long coat and cravat) should leave a Christian country, and come to such a place as California, to pick up shells and stones, they could not understand.

Nuttall's explanation to these sailors would have been the words he penned years later, "hardships and privations are cheaply purchased if I may but roam over the wild domain of primeval Nature and behold another Flora there of bolder hues and richer sweets beyond our garden's pride. How often did I realize the poet's buoyant hopes amidst my solitary rambles. My chief converse has been in the wilderness with the spontaneous productions of Nature and the study of these objects and their contemplation have been to me a source of constant delight."

Thomas Nuttall gloried in the beauty of our world and made us all richer.

Click to see some of Nuttall's botanical illustrations.

Click to read Memoir of the Late Thomas Nuttall.

Click for a list of plants collected by Nuttall on his 1834 trip with Wyeth.

Click for a list of all plants that Wyeth collected and Nuttall described on Wyeth's first expedition across North America: Nuttall, T. 1834. "A catalogue of a collection of plants made chiefly in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains or northern Andes, towards the sources of the Columbia River, by Mr. Nathaniel B. [sic] Wyeth, and described by T. Nuttall", Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 7: 1-60.

Click for the Nuttall Ornithological Club, founded in 1873, the first organization in North America devoted to ornithology. During the Club’s long years, its members have included the premier names in the field of ornithology: William Brewster, Ludlow Griscom, Roger Tory Peterson....

The following plants named for Nuttall are on this web site: 

Astragalus nuttallianusDelphinium nuttallianum, Calochortus nuttallii, Monolepis nuttalliana, Nuttallia pterosperma, Viola nuttallii, Sophora nuttalliana

In addition to Nuttall's writings mentioned above, Nuttall wrote the following (and much more):

Observations on the genus Eriogonum and order Polygonaceae

An account of two new genera of Plants, of a species of Tillea, and another of Limosella recently discovered on the banks of the Delaware in the vicinity of Philadelphia

Description of Collinsia, a new genus of Plants

Journey into the Interior of Arkansas with an Appendix consisting An Account of the ancient aboriginal Population of the Banks of the Mississippi, A History of the Natehes, Observations on the Chichasaws and Clwctaws, and Meteorological Observations

A Geographical Description of the Valley of the Mississippi

Descriptions of rare Plants recently introduced into the Gardens of Philadelphia

Remarks on the Species of Corallorhiza indigenous to the United States

On the Serpentine Rocks of Hoboken and the Minerals which they contain

Manual of the Ornithology of the United States and Canada, 2 volumes of 600 pages each

A Catalogue of Plants from Florida

Remarks on the Minerals of Paterson and Sparta New Jersey

Remarks and Inquiries concerning the Birds of Massachusetts

A Description of a new Species of Sarracenia

An Account of the Jalap Plant as an Ipomaia

A Catalogue of Plants collected chiefly in the Valleys of the Rocky Mountains towards the source of the Columbia River by Nathan B Wyeth

Collections towards a Flora of the Territory of Arkansas

Descriptions of some of the Rarer Plants indigenous to the United States

Descriptions of new species and genera of plants in the natural order Composite collected in a tour across the continent to the Pacific a residence in Oregon and a visit to the Sandwich Islands and California in the years 1834 and 1835

Description and notices of new and rare plants of the natural orders Lobeliace Campanulace Vaccinie and Ericaceae collected in a journey across the Continent of North America and during a visit to the Sandwich Islands and Upper California.

Osterhout, George Everett, 1858-1937: Amateur botanist and naturalist who moved to Colorado and collected extensively for many decades.  He published a series of journal articles detailing his botanical findings under the title of "New Plants from Colorado".  Nelson and Rydberg cited his collections often in their publications.  Penstemon osterhoutii

Packer, John George, 1929-: Canadian botanist, Professor of Botany at the University of Alberta (1958-1988), Professor Emeritus.  Co-author with Cheryl Bradley of Checklist of the rare vascular plants in Alberta (1984), one of the editors of the English edition of Flora of the Russian Arctic (2000), co-author with his wife of Some Common and Interesting Plants of San Miguel de Allende (Mexico). He also revised E. H. Moss's Flora of Alberta (1983) and worked to protect Mountain Park in the Canadian Rockies from an open-pit coal mine. Specializes in plant systematics. Contributor to the Flora of North AmericaPackera crocata , Packera dimorphophyllaPackera multilobata, Packera neomexicana, Packera oodes, Packera pseudaurea, Packera mancosana, Packera werneriifolia

Palmer, Edward, 1829-1911: Prolific botanical collector in the Southwest and in Mexico, archaeologist, botanist with the United States Department of Agriculture, field assistant for the Bureau of American Ethnology. Mostly self-taught.

Palmer is considered one of the founders of ethnobotany. F.W. Putnam, Curator of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, supported Palmer in his studies of Native Americans uses of plants. Click to read Dexter's summation of the fundamental contribution that Palmer made to ethnobotany.

Palmer started his collecting life when 22 years old on an expedition to Paraguay as hospital steward and botanical collector. He worked for the Geological Survey of California, collecting marine invertebrates. During the Civil War he did medical work and collected. Made numerous botanical collecting trips to Mexico from 1878-1910. Palmer was on Charles Parry’s 1878 expedition to Mexico. Led an 1891 Death Valley collecting expedition. Palmer often made his living by selling collections to museums in the United States and England.

Palmer helped establish standards for collecting plants and is considered one of the most productive collectors ever, having collected over 100,000 specimens, among which were 1,162 new to science. He has 200 species named for him. 

Palmer published Food Products of the North American Indians in 1871 and published a number of articles, including: "Indian rope and cloth", "Notes on Indian manners and customs", "Plants used by the Indians of the United States", and "Indian food customs". Click to read some of Palmer's works and correspondenceCleomella palmeriana  Eriogonum palmerianum  Penstemon palmeri

Parry, Charles Christopher, 1823-1890: Highly respected and loved Doctor, explorer, and naturalist. After receiving his medical degree in 1845 Parry moved to Davenport Iowa and soon began participating in botanical surveys of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota; became member of various Western botanical surveys including the acclaimed Mexican Boundary Survey; first botanist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spending 1869-1871 at the Smithsonian; collected in the mid-west, Colorado, and other western states for forty-eight years; named at least six Colorado peaks (including Gray's Peak and Torrey's Peak); widely publicized the flora of the West to encourage horticulture and the settling of the new lands he had explored. 

Parry was one of the most eminent botanists of the 19th century, and he was friend to the other great botanists of his time. From 1842-1845 Parry attended Columbia College for his medical degree and there was a student and friend of the great John Torrey. He met George Engelmann in 1848, and Joseph Hooker in 1870. In 1872 he led his long-time friend, Asa Gray, and nineteen others to the top of Gray's Peak (14,274 feet) to formalize the naming of the peak.

Photo of Charles Parry from the
National Library of Medicine

In the summer of 1862 he led Eastern farmers and sometimes collectors, Elihu Hall and J. P. Harbour, on a Colorado collecting expedition which gathered ten sets of over 700 species.  This remains, according to William Weber, "the largest [collection] [ever] made in Colorado in a single season".  Asa Gray, who described the collection, said, "[it] is full, excellent, and of great interest".  See Hall and Harbour.

Parry was, according to Weber's book, King of Colorado Botany (an appellation given him by the eminent Joseph Hooker), "the first resident Colorado botanist".  On and off for twenty years he spent his summers in a cabin at the base of Gray and Torrey's peak and collected voraciously, specializing in alpine plants. "Through the distribution of his botanical collections he introduced the Colorado flora to the world." 

Parry was a believer in the westward expansion of the United States, perhaps even a believer in the contested and highly controversial doctrine of Manifest Destiny. He certainly wanted his discoveries of the beauties of Colorado to entice others to come to Colorado and "build a mountain empire".

After Parry's death (the result of influenza and pneumonia), his wife had Parry's herbarium cataloged and in 1891 put up for sale. The plant collection numbered 18,000 specimens and these and many of his personal papers and books were purchased for $500 by Iowa State University in 1894.

Parry collected about one hundred new Colorado species, including the following plants shown on this web site: Engelmann Spruce and Colorado Blue Spruce,  Campanula parryi, Pedicularis parryi, Penstemon harbourii, Polemonium foliosissimum, Primula parryi, Rhodiola rhodantha, Senecio amplectens, Trifolium parryi, Trollius albiflorus

Eighty new Colorado species were named for Parry including the following shown on this web site: Primula parryiLomatium parryi, Oreochrysum parryi, Pedicularis parryi, Pneumonanthe parryi, Trifolium parryi, Campanula parryi, Arnica parryiOxytropis parryi(See also Porter.)

Click for a slide show about Parry and his plants.

Click to read correspondence between Parry and Engelmann.

Click to view Parry's work held at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Click to see Asa Gray's list of the plants Hall, Harbour, and Parry collected in 1862.

Patterson, Harry Norton, 1853-1919: Illinois newspaper publisher and amateur botanist who visited Colorado often.  He took over the Oquawka Spectator which he and his wife, Florence, published after his father, Edward (or Edwin) H. N. Patterson moved to Denver in 1875.  (Patterson, the elder, was well known.  He and Eugene Field were associates of Edgar Allen Poe and had attempted to have Poe move to Oquawka.  Patterson also corresponded with Poe about financing Poe's longed-for literary magazine, the "Stylus", but Poe died of alcohol poisoning before the two could work out the publishing details.)

H. N. Patterson was a correspondent with prominent American botanists of the time and he printed botanical labels for many collectors.  His botanical collections are housed in a number of herbaria around the United States.  In 1874 Patterson wrote A List of plants collected in the vicinity of Oquawka, Henderson County, Ills.  Of this list Patterson said, "709 species are enumerated (not including mosses), and of these I have found 654 within three miles of Oquawka."   In 1892 Patterson published "Patterson's Numbered Check-list of North American Plants North of Mexico". (Click to read.) 

Asa Gray named Astragalus pattersonii from a specimen "collected by Mr. H. N. Patterson [in 1876?]... in the foothills of Gore Mountains, Colorado".  (Asa Gray's words as quoted in "T. S. Brandegee's 1876 "The Flora of Southwestern Colorado", part of the Hayden Survey Report.)  Astragalus pattersonii,  Draba fladnizensis variety pattersonii

Porter, Thomas Conrad, 1822-1901: Professor of Botany at Pennsylvania's Lafayette College, Colorado flora collector, and participant in the Hayden Survey.  In 1874 he and John Coulter published the first Colorado Flora, Synopsis of the Flora of Colorado (click the title to read the Synopsis) which, in Porter's words in the preface addressed to Hayden, drew "chiefly on collections made in 1861 and succeeding years, by Dr. C. C. Parry, whose indefatigable labors have added so much to our knowledge of the flora of... [Colorado]".  Many other collectors were consulted for this volume which, in Porter's words, described "all species not contained in Gray's Manual..." and other major botanical guides.

Hayden makes three particularly interesting points in his "Prefatory Note" to the Synopsis: 1) This volume "is intended to be [one of] a series of [natural history] "handbooks". 2) since "the mountain regions of Colorado are now so accessible to the traveling public... this [book] will prove a most valuable aid to students and travelers who are annually visiting Colorado in great numbers". 3) The "mountainous portions [of Colorado]... resemble the Alpine districts of Central Europe, not only in the scenery, but also in the... vegetation". We can see, then, that by at least 1874 Colorado field guides were being written, Colorado tourism was already booming, and botanists had noticed the similarities of Colorado montane flora to the montane flora of other regions of the world (see Hooker).  Ligusticum porteri

Preuss, Charles, 1803-1854: Highly acclaimed topographer and artist with Nicollet's and Fremont's expeditions. Preuss kept diaries which were published by Gudde and Gudde: Exploring with Fremont: The Private Diaries of Charles Preuss, Cartographer for John C. Fremont on His First, Second, Second, and Fourth Expeditions to the Far West.      Astragalus preussii

Pursh, Frederick, 1774-1820: Botanist, collector, author. Pursh came to the U.S. from Germany in 1799 and quickly met the most accomplished American botanists and horticulturists: Muhlenberg, Marshall, John and William Bartram, Hamilton, and Barton. Pursh embarked on many collecting expeditions in the wilds of the East:"These tours I principally made on foot, the most appropriate way for attentive observation, particularly in traveling over an extent of more than three thousand miles each season with no other companions than my dog and gun, frequently taking up my lodging in the midst of wild mountains and impenetrable forests, far remote from the habitations of men." (This quotation and those below are from the "Preface" to Pursh's 1814 Flora Americae Septentrionalis which can be read at http://www.botanicus.org/title/b11729004.)

By 1805 Pursh had begun collecting for Benjamin Barton, famous botanist, University of Pennsylvania Professor, and author of the first United States botany textbook, Barton's Elements of Botany. In 1803 Jefferson asked Barton to train Meriwether Lewis in botany for the 1804-1806 Expedition. Jefferson also asked Barton to receive and work on the Expedition's botanical collections but Barton never fulfilled this request, apparently because of his poor health and his predisposition to procrastination.

The renowned horticulturists, Bernard McMahon, respected scientist and friend of Jefferson, Barton, and Pursh, suggested that Pursh take on the analysis of Lewis' collection.  Lewis was then to combine Pursh's work with details about the Expedition in an organized narrative. In 1807 Lewis met Pursh, was very impressed, and paid Pursh about $60 to begin the work which Pursh went on to complete in a few years. Tragically, Lewis committed suicide in 1809, having organized and written almost nothing about the Expedition. 

Of Lewis' collection Pursh stated, "... when I consider that the small collection communicated to me, consisting of about one hundred and fifty specimens, contained not above a dozen plants well known to me to be natives of North America, the rest being either entirely new or but little known, and among them at least six distinct and new genera. This may give an idea of the discerning eye of their collector [Meriwether Lewis].

With Lewis' collection, his own collection, and many other specimens, Pursh began working on a new flora of America but, "While I was engaged in arranging my materials for this publication, I was called upon to take the management of the Botanic Garden at New York....  As this employment opened a further prospect to me of increasing my knowledge of the plants of the country, I willingly dropped the idea of my intended publication for that time, and in 1807 took charge of that establishment."

Pursh made several more collecting expeditions and "On my return to New York [in 1811], I found things in a situation very unfavourable to the publication of scientific works, the public mind being then in agitation about a war with Great Britain. I therefore determined to take all my materials to England, where I conceived I would not only have the advantage of consulting the most celebrated collections and libraries, but also meet with that encouragement and support so necessary to works of science, and so generally bestowed upon them there".

Exactly what happened to all of the Lewis collections after Pursh worked on them, is still not known.  Pursh returned most of the collection he had studied to McMahon, departed for England with about four dozen specimens of the Lewis collection, his own descriptive work and drawings of the specimens, and his own collections. In England he had access to numerous botanical collections, herbaria, and libraries, and had the encouragement and assistance of influential people, especially Joseph Banks and Lord Aylmer Lambert

In 1814 Pursh published Flora Americae Septentrionalis, or a Systematic Arrangement and Description of the Plants of North America.  In this work, Pursh gave considerable thanks to many individuals for their assistance, but he was apparently a bit lacking in his honesty about who had discovered which plants; this led him into controversy, especially with John Bradbury and Thomas Nuttall -- neither of whom Pursh credits in his Flora Americae.

Pursh was an alcoholic and apparently only the help of his friends kept him at his task of completing his Flora Americae, which included descriptions of 132 specimens from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. For nearly forty years Pursh's two volume work was a standard botany of North America.  It was superseded by Torrey and Gray's Flora of North America

All but a few of the Lewis and Clark Expedition specimens which Pursh had taken with him to England were bought at auction years later and returned to the United States.  The total number of Lewis and Clark Expedition plants known now is 232-237, all but eleven (those in the Kew Gardens Herbarium in London) are in the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, where both Lewis and Pursh began their Expedition botanical work.  

Pursh died in Canada at 46, drunk, impoverished, and forgotten. But the eminent modern day botanist, James Reveal, sums Pursh's contributions favorably: "While his Flora had many flaws, they were no more serious than those found in any other work treating a large portion of the world's flora. He has been criticized for his means of acquiring new and interesting plants and for ignoring the contributions of others, yet he was remarkably thorough for his time. He modified the Linnaean system of arranging plants into groups, making his groupings of plants much more natural than anything published to that time. He was careful to indicate whose specimens he saw and where he saw them, and where the plants grew in the wild."

Purshia stansburiana, Purshia tridentata

Redowski, Ivan Redowski, (1774-1807): Born in Lithuania, studied botany and medicine at Leipzig and Konigsberg, employed by Count Alexei Razumovski at Gorinka (near Moscow) in his great botanical garden and library, for which Redowskii compiled a plant catalog. In 1805 he received an appointment as naturalist to travel to China with Count J. A. Golovkin who, as Consul, was sent with a diplomatic entourage to conduct boundary and trade talks with the Chinese. When Golovkin turned back after apparently being rebuffed, Redowski remained to collect in the Aldan Mountains, the Shantarsky Islands, Sakhalin, and Kamchatka, where he died of a sudden illness. Lappula redowskii
Information adapted from Michael Charter's CalFlora Names.)

Reeves, Tim, 1950?  Botanist, fern expert, and computer teacher at San Juan College in Farmington, New Mexico.  Cystopteris reevesiana

Reveal, James, 1941-2015: Jim died, apparently of tuberculosis, January 9, 2015. I knew Jim for about 15 years and always found him gracious and willing to assist with my questions. We corresponded a number of times via email, some by phone, and met on a half dozen occasions. His knowledge was prodigious (his key to Eriogonum is 1,200 pages!), he responded to my email questions immediately and with great clarity and accuracy, and I always found him pleasantly willing to assist. I did not know Jim well, but I feel an empty spot in my life now.

Jim was Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland; Adjunct Professor, Cornell University; Honorary Curator, New York Botanical Garden. Reveal was one of the most respected, published, and honored botanists of his time. He received dozens of awards, collected over 9,000 specimens for 50 years across the U.S. (and in a number of foreign countries), was a major contributor to the Flora of North America and the Intermountain Flora, and published hundreds of papers on subjects ranging from the flora of California, to the flora of Maryland, to the collections of Lewis and Clark, to systematics, to botanical explorers.

Reveal worked under Arthur Holmgren at the University of Utah for his B.A. and M.A. degrees and continued at Brigham Young University under Stanley Welsh for his PhD. While working on his doctorate he did extensive field work with Noel Holmgren and through the influence of Arthur Cronquist and others he began his lifelong work on Polygonaceae, especially Eriogonum.

After receiving his doctorate, Reveal began teaching at the University of Maryland where he remained for 40 years until his retirement in 1999. In 2007 he left his new home in Montrose, Colorado, and returned to academia as an Adjunct Professor at Cornell.

In his on-line web page Reveal listed his research interests as "Plant systematics, taxonomy of Polygonaceae subfam. Eriogonoideae, botanical nomenclature, and history of botanical explorations and discovery".
Click for more biographical information about Reveal.
Click for a tribute to James Reveal.
Oreocarya revealii

Richardson, John, 1787-1865: Surgeon and naturalist.  Served on two Arctic and Canadian expeditions with Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin: 1819-1821 and 1825-1826. Richardson saved Franklin's life on the first expedition as the group struggled with starvation, cannibalism, and murder.  Richardson contributed significantly to Franklin's natural history descriptions of these trips. Sir William Jackson Hooker described many of Richardson's specimens in his Flora Boreali-Americana. (Click the title to read.)

Richardson made accurate surveys of more of the Canadian Arctic coast than any other explorer. In 1847 Richardson commanded one of the rescue ships sent to find Franklin and his men, all of whom had failed to return from an 1845 expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. Franklin's ships, Richardson found, had been crushed by ice, and years later it was found that all expedition members had died in their attempt to walk out. Richardson wrote of the rescue attempt and the knowledge gained of the area in An Arctic Searching Expedition (1851). See also Thomas Drummond and James RossGeranium Richardsonii

Ritter, Benjamin and Jeanette T., 1859-1935 & 1857-1920: He was a lawyer in Durango, Colorado and she a long-time Durango Library Board member.  They helped Alice Eastwood put together a collecting trip and she named several plants for them as a thank you.  Besseya ritteriana  See also Bessey.

Robin, Jean, 1550-1629: Botanist/herbalist/gardener to Henry III, Henry IV, and Louis XIII of France. In 1601 he published Catalogus Stirpium which detailed 1,300 species for use in new French royal gardens. Jean's son, Vespasien, brought Robinia pseudoacacia to France from America. See Embroidery and BotanyRobinia pseudoacacia

Romanzoff, Nikolai, 1754-1826: early 19th century Russian Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs who sponsored several long exploratory voyages including Otto von Kotzebue's 1815-1818 voyage to the California Coast, Bering Sea, and explorations for a north-east passage.  The California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica, was first collected on this expedition and the ship's naturalist, Louis Charles de Chamisso, named it for the expedition's doctor, Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz.  Chamisso also named Spiranthes romanzoffiana

Ross, James, 1800-1862: British Arctic and Antarctic explorer. Participated in many arctic expeditions, four from 1819 to 1827 with W. E. Parry; located magnetic north pole. From 1839-1843: Antarctic explorations discovering the Ross Sea and Ross Ice Shelf in search for the south magnetic pole. Ross' ships, the Erebus and Terror, were later used by Sir John Franklin in 1845 to search for a Northwest Passage. Both ships and all crew perished. See Richardson. Geum rossii

Rothrock, Joseph, 1839-1922:  Surgeon, botanist, teacher, forester.  Attended Harvard and studied under Asa Gray.  Served with several Canadian and western U.S. expeditions including the Wheeler Expedition.  Professor of Botany at the University of Pennsylvania.  Considered the father of Pennsylvania forestry.  In 1886 he became the first president of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association and in 1895, Pennsylvania's first Commissioner of Forestry.  He worked the last forty years of his life for the management of Pennsylvania forests.  Rothrock was a friend of Gifford Pinchot and the two worked for forest protection at the federal and state levels.  Rothrock State Forest, in central Pennsylvania, honors him.  Arbor Day in Pennsylvania is the last Friday in April, and the entire week is observed as the Dr. Joseph T. Rothrock Memorial Conservation Week.  Townsendia rothrockii

Rudbeck, Olof The Younger, 1660-1740: Physician, Uppsala University Professor of Medicine, explorer, son of Olof Rudbeck, Sr. After the great fire of 1702 destroyed most of his and his father's botanical work, he turned his attention to a thesaurus of European and Asiatic languages.

When Linnaeus was a medical student at Uppsala University, he lived with Olof the Younger for a time and received financial support from him. Linnaeus named Rudbeckia laciniata for Olof. See Rudbeckia laciniata for details about the naming of the genus.

Rudbeck, Olof, 1630-1702: Physician, Professor of Botany and Medicine, historian, dedicated Uppsala University (Sweden) promoter. After receiving his medical degree and doing pioneering research on the lymphatic system, he studied botany for several years in Holland and upon returning to Sweden built a botanical garden, later named the "Linnæan Garden".

Rudbeck compiled a twelve volume botanical work on 6,200 plants. Only the first two volumes had been published when a fire, which swept through Stockholm, destroyed the printing blocks for the book. About 6,000 watercolor paintings of the plants survived and are now in the Uppsala University Library. Linnaeus named Rudbeckia laciniata variety ampla for Olof's son. See above.

Rusby, Henry Hurd, 1855-1940: Physician, plant collector, explorer, teacher.  Collected over 10,000 plants in the Southwest and South America.  In 1889 he became Professor of Botany at Columbia and in 1904 he became Dean of the Faculty and served in this capacity until his retirement in 1930. 

Rusby was a founding member of the New York Botanical Garden.  According to the NYBG on-line biography of Rusby, his "association with the NYBG began even before the Garden was formally established....  In 1888 a botanic garden committee of eight distinguished club members including [Nathaniel Lord] Britton and Rusby was formed" to establish the NYBG.  Once the NYBG was established,  Rusby promoted "the study of economic botany... throughout the first fifty years of its existence".  "Rusby’s neotropical explorations, particularly in the Amazon region, set the precedent for the systematic and economic botany that has characterized subsequent research at NYBG. The productivity of his trips was due to his endurance and resourcefulness as an explorer. In 1921 when Rusby was 65 years old he embarked on his last field trip to South America as the Director of the Mulford Biological Exploration of the Amazon Basin."  Isocoma rusbyi

Rydberg, Per Axel, 1860-1931: Ph.D. Columbia. First Curator of and Field Agent with the New York Botanical Garden from 1899, USDA Field Agent, author of Flora of Montana and Yellowstone Park (1900), Flora of Colorado (1906), and Flora of the Rocky Mountains and Adjacent Plains (1917). These were based in part on his own collections over many years and on the collections and publications of previous botanical authorities. Rydberg often did his own botanical illustrations.  Rydberg collected only once in Colorado in 1891.

Photo of Per Axel Rydberg from
the New York Botanical Garden

William A. Weber, Colorado plant authority, considers Rydberg, Greene, and Nelson the most important figures in Rocky Mountain botany. Rydberg split many genera and wanted each species to be distinct and distinguishable from all others, a lead that Weber follows.  In Rydberg's words from his 1906 Flora of Colorado: "[I] belong to that radical school which believes in small genera with closely related species rather than in larger ones with a heterogeneous mass of different groups of plants having relatively little relationship to each other." Arnica rydbergia, Rydbergia grandiflora (now Hymenoxys grandiflora), Toxicodendron rydbergii, Penstemon rydbergii

Schiede, Christian, 1798-1836: German physician and botanist who, along with Ferdinand Deppe, emigrated to Mexico to collect and then sell zoological and botanical specimens. Their venture did not succeed and was abandoned within a two years. Schiede remained in Mexico.  Laennecia schiedeana

Schkuhr, Christian, 1741-1811: German gardener and botanist. Throughout his life he conducted botanical studies of German flora, especially in the Wittenberg area (he received a degree in philosophy from the Wittenberg University). He eventually published Handbook of Botany to help people learn the new Linnaean system and to familiarize people with the many uses of plants. For the publication of his Handbook, Schkuhr taught himself to draw and engrave (the Handbook has 500 colored plates) and he printed his own book -- in 37 parts from 1787-1803. Schkuhr also wrote the books German Cryptogram and History of Carex and he wrote a number of papers. See page 6 of the Bulletin of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. Schkuhr's private plant collection was purchased in 1813 as the foundation of the herbarium at Martin Luther University.  Platyschkuhria integrifolia variety oblongifolia,  Schkuhria multiflora

Schmoll, Hazel, 1890-1990: Colorado State Botanist from 1919-1935. B.A. in biology from the University of Colorado. Taught at Vassar. First woman to receive a PhD in Botany from the University of Chicago. Opened her guest ranch in Ward Colorado in 1938 and led guests on nature walks for the next 30 years. Astragalus schmolliae

Scouler, John, 1804-1871: Botanist, physician, professor. Was on the Hudson Bay Company's voyage to the Columbia River, 1824–1825 with, among others, David Douglas (of Douglas Fir fame).  In Scouler's words opening his Journal of a Voyage to N.W. America:

"Attached to the study of medicine & its kindred sciences, I eagerly embraced the opportunity which unexpectedly presented itself of investigating the natural history of the NW coast of America.  Its botanical riches had already been explored by the zeal of Nelson & Menzies but the interesting collection of Governor Lewis convinced me that much remained to be done in the country West of the Stony Mountains [i.e., "Rocky Mountains"]. 

If many gleanings remained to reward the botanist, the geology & zoology of the country were yet untouched and the success of Dr. Richardson in a country better known, encouraged me with the prospect of adding some new individuals to the class Rodentia.  While in London I received much useful information from Mr Menzies and Dr. Richardson & the inspection of their specimens enabled me to form some idea of American botany & of the best manner of collecting and preserving the various subjects of natural history in the remote countries I was about to visit.

On the 25 July we left Gravesend furnished with every necessary for the collection and preservation of plants & animals.  In the prospect of a long voyage I deemed myself particularly fortunate in the company of Mr Douglass who was employed by the Horticultural Society in similar pursuits. In him I enjoyed the society of an old friend & zealous botanical associate."

On the way to the Pacific Northwest, Scouler and Douglas were the first to collect flora and fauna in the Galapagos.  Most of the collection was lost but "Sir Joseph Hooker cited thirteen Galápagos plants gathered by Scouler and five from Douglas in a paper he published on Darwin in 1847. (ABC Bookworld)   When Scouler and Douglas arrived in the Pacific Northwest they continued to travel and collect together. 

In addition to his writings on natural history, Scouler, intrigued by the native people, also wrote seminal cultural observations: Account of a voyage to Madeira, Brazil, Juan Fernandez, and the Gallipagos Islands: performed in 1824 and 1825, with a view of examining their natural history    and   Observations On The Indigenous Tribes Of The N.W. Coast Of America; & Notes On The Geography Of The Columbia River    and   click to read his "Journal of a Voyage to N.W. America", published posthumously in 1905 in the volume VI of the Oregon Historical Quarterly and made available on-line by Google Books, pp. 54-75, 159-205, & 276-287.

Both Scouler and Douglas were protégés of William Hooker and they supplied Hooker with many specimens, some of which eventually became common plants in English gardens.  From 1833-1854, Scouler was Professor of geology, zoology, and botany with the Royal Dublin Society.  Hypericum scouleri  Salix scouleriana   Plagiobothrys scouleri (now Plagiobothrys hispidulus)

Shepherd, John, 1764-1836:  British botanist and in 1803 first Curator of the Liverpool Botanic Garden with which both Nuttall and Pursh were briefly associated. In 1808 published "A Catalog of Plants in the Botanic Garden at Liverpool". Nuttall named  Shepherdia argentea for John Shepherd in 1818.  See also Shepherdia canadensis  Shepherdia rotundifolia

Sibbald, Robert, 1641-1722: Scottish physician, botanist. Established the first botanical garden in Edinburgh, 1671. Helped establish the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, was elected president in 1684, and became, in 1685, the first Professor of medicine there. Physician to King James VII and Cartographer-Royal for Scotland.  Sibbaldia procumbens

Simpson, James Hervey, 1813-1883: Graduate of West Point and life-long employee of the Topographical Engineers.  Participated in and led many expeditions and gained considerable fame from the three Western expeditions he led.  Simpson was an avid collector, including information about Native American culture.  In 1858 he began a survey for a shorter travel route across what is now Utah and Nevada to California and it was on this expedition that he collected Pediocactus simpsonii.  Served in the Civil War and was made brigadier-general in March, 1865.  Soon thereafter was made Chief Engineer of the Interior Department, having charge of the inspection of the Union Pacific Railroad.

Sivinski, Robert, 1945: Botanist for the New Mexico Forestry Division for 22 years. Past President of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico. Naturalist, photographer, discoverer of several plant species, Curatorial Associate in the Herbarium at the Museum of Southwestern Biology, participant in New Mexico land conservation programs. Erigeron sivinski

Smelowsky (or Smelovskii), Timotheus, 1769-1815: Russian pharmacist and botanist from St. Petersburg. Wrote about the flora of Alaska.  Smelowskia calycina

Smith, Benjamin Hayes, 1841-1918: Philadelphia physician, naturalist, historian, and noted insect and botanical collector in the East and then for many years in the 1870s and 1880s in Colorado and New Mexico. Worked in the Surveyor General's Office in Denver for many years. He was a very active member and board member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, the Entomological Society, and the Philadelphia Botanical Club. Author of several plant checklists but most of his publications were on history.  Donated his 10,000 Coleoptera specimens to the Zoological Laboratory of the University of Pennsylvania.  Rhamnus smithii   (For more information see Smith's obituary in "Entomological News", page 88ff.) 

Stanley, Edward Smith, 1775-1851: Known as "Lord Stanley" and in 1834 upon his father's death, "13th Earl of Derby".  Stanley held a seat in Parliament from 1796-1812 but subsequently devoted himself to natural history pursuits.  He established a large game preserve and aviary, Knowsley Park, on his property with a budget of tens of thousands of pounds per year.  He also had a private zoological museum with over 20,000 specimens, mainly birds and mammals. Stanley was a President of the Linnaean Society and the London Zoo (The Zoological Society of London), of which he was a founder.

"He was a very great naturalist and, although primarily interested in birds, was also very interested in horticulture, and had a very large plant conservatory added on to the back of his home, Knowsley Hall." (Quote from Dr. Clemency Fisher, Curator at the Liverpool Museum, as communicated to me in an email, March, 2005.)

In 1853 after Edward Stanley's death, his zoological collections formed the nucleus of the Derby Museum, now the Liverpool Museum.

Stanley was a patron to many, including Edward Lear, painter and author of "The Owl and the Pussycat" and many other limericks.  For four years, starting in 1832, Lear lived on Stanley's estate and Stanley employed Lear to make paintings of his natural history collection.

In 1826 John James Audubon sought financial backing in England for his art work and he was introduced to Stanley.  Of their first meeting Audubon wrote, "My drawings were soon brought out.  Lord Stanley is a great naturalist, and in an instant he was exclaiming over my work, 'Fine!' 'Beautiful!' and when I saw him on his knees, having spread my drawings on the floor... I forgot he was Lord Stanley, I knew only he too loved Nature." (From Audubon's Journals)

Thomas Nuttall, a British citizen born in Liverpool, knew and communicated in writing (and almost certainly in person) with Stanley.  In his 1818 Genera of North American Plants, Nuttall honored Stanley by naming an eye-catching North American desert plant,  Stanleya pinnata

Stansbury, Howard, 1806-1863: Highly accomplished and acclaimed surveyor and engineer, explorer, and naturalist, for the last 25 years of his life with the U. S. Corps of Topographical Engineers. In 1849 led a major expedition to the great Salt Lake surveying for a railroad route.  Stansbury was the first to accurately describe the geology of the Great Salt Lake, recognizing a "former... inland sea". He and his second in command, Captain John Gunnison, also wrote extensively about the Mormons.

Purshia stansburiana, one of my favorite flowering shrubs, was first collected by Stansbury on his 1849 Expedition.  The plant was brought east to expert botanist John Torrey for describing and Torrey named it for Stansbury.

Steller, Wilhelm, 1709–1746: German botanist, zoologist, physician, and explorer, who worked in Russia and present-day Alaska.  Received his medical degree in Germany and then obtained work in Russia as a naturalist with the Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg. 

In 1741 Steller joined Bering's ill-fated explorations of the islands and lands that became Alaska. Stellar is considered the first white man to have stepped onto present day Alaskan soil. One of Bering's two ships was marooned and many crew members died. Steller not only survived but made numerous observations of the sea life of the area and later published a book on them. Steller's Sea Eagle, Steller's Jay, Steller's Sea Lion, Steller's Sea Cow (an extinct species that Steller studied in depth), and Steller's Eider are all named for him.  Cryptogramma stelleri

Stewart, Dugald, 1753-1828: Professor of Mathematics and Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh for twenty-five years. Highly respected and sought out as teacher. His pupils included Sir Walter Scott and James Mill (John Stewart Mill's father). His collected works were published in eleven volumes, 1854-1858. French botanist Alexandre Cassini (grandnephew of famous astronomer, Gian Cassini, discoverer of Jupiter's Red Spot and the Saturn ring division, the "Cassini Ring"), named the genus Dugaldia for Dugald Stewart in 1828.  Dugaldia hoopesii (now Hymenoxys hoopesii)

Suksdorf, Wilhelm, 1850-1932: Born in Germany, came to Iowa at the age of eight with his farming family. Wilhelm attended Grinnell and the University of California at Berkeley and then rejoined his family on their farm in Washington.

Suksdorf had become interested in plants in Iowa and this interest blossomed in Washington where, in 1878, he began corresponding with Asa Gray who eventually hired Suksdorf in 1886 as an assistant.  That position lasted just two years until Gray's death.  Suksdorf returned to Washington and over the many years left in his life he made extensive and valuable collections. 

Suksdorf was a field botanist, not a lab botanist, and his botanical philosophy is summed in his 1928 writings: "A collector sees the plants in the field and mostly many of each kind he collects, but his notes or remarks are seldom considered of importance. That was so, at least in the past. But I knew one botanist who was different; that was Dr. Gray. To him the collector was a helper, not merely a collector." [(16 June 1928, Harold St. John Papers) As quoted on-line.]  In 1932 Suksdorf gave his 30,000 specimen herbarium to Washington State College.  Mimulus suksdorfii 

Sweert, Emanuel, 1552-1612: Dutch florist and horticulturist. At the request of his employer, the Emperor Rudolf II of Austria, Sweert produced one of the very first plant catalogs, the "Florilegium". Six editions of this picture catalog of plants and bulbs for sale by Sweert were published between 1612 and 1647. Prints from his book can be found on sale on the Internet.  Swertia perennis

Tiling, Heinrich, 1818-1871: Latvian physician employed by a Russian company to collect plants in Siberia, Alaska, and California from 1868-1871.  Mimulus tilingii

Torrey, John, 1796-1873: Physician, botanist, Professor of Chemistry and Botany. At the age of sixteen Torrey became a student of science educator Amos Eaton, grandfather of Daniel Eaton. Torrey built on this education to become the first professional botanist in the New World.

According to Asa Gray's "Report to the Council to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences" which Gray presented shortly after Torrey's death, "In 1817, while yet a medical student, [Torrey] reported to the Lyceum of Natural History (he was one of the founders) his Catalogue of the Plants Growing Spontaneously Within Thirty Miles of the City of New York". 

Torrey received his medical degree and, in Gray's words, "practice[d]... medicine with moderate success, turning the while his abundant leisure to scientific pursuits, especially to botany...."  "As early as the year 1823 Dr. Torrey communicated to the Lyceum of Natural History descriptions of some new species of [the botanist, Edwin] James's collection, and in 1826 an extended account of all the plants collected, arranged under their natural orders. This is the earliest treatise of the sort in this country, arranged upon the natural system; and with it begins the history of the botany of the Rocky Mountains".

In 1824 Torrey published Flora of the Northern and Middle Sections of the United States, A Systematic Arrangement and Description of All the Plants Hitherto Discovered in the United States North of Virginia; Torrey became Professor of Chemistry and Natural History at the College of Physicians and Surgeons (1827-1854); in 1827 he became Professor at (what would later be named) Columbia University where his pupils included Asa Gray, with whom he worked the rest of his life; in 1843 Torrey published the Flora of the State of New York "the largest if by no means the most important of Dr. Torrey's works... in two large quarto volumes, with 161 plates" (Gray's words); he was a Princeton Professor in the summers of 1830-1854; in the late 1850s he was United States Assayer; and he was frequently called upon throughout his life to provide his expertise in chemistry.   

Photo of John Torrey from the Hunt Institute
for Botanical Documentation

Torrey and Gray were the two most important systematic botanists of their time and they rigorously analyzed and classified numerous botanical collections, including the 1000 specimen collection of John Charles FremontIn 1853 Torrey detailed Fremont's collections in "Plantae Fremontianae", part of the Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge

From 1838-1843 Torrey and Gray published Flora of North America, now available on-line as a Google Book. Torrey and Gray dedicated this monumental work to Sir William Jackson Hooker, "no person has done more for the advancement of North American botany". 

In 1867 the Torrey Botanical Club, which is still in active existence, was formed and led by Torrey.

Toward the end of his life, Torrey made several long trips and, in Asa Gray's words, "enjoyed the rare pleasure of viewing in their native soil, and plucking with his own hands, many a flower which he had himself named and described from dried specimens in the herbarium, and in which he felt a kind of paternal interest. Perhaps this interest culminated last summer [1872], when he stood on the flank of the lofty and beautiful snow-clad ... [Torrey's Peak in Colorado] to which a grateful former pupil and ardent explorer [Charles Parry], ten years before, gave his name, and gathered charming alpine plants which he had himself named forty years before, when the botany of the Colorado Rocky Mountains was first opened".

Torrey was appointed by Congress to be a founding member of the National Academy of Sciences.  He had there the company of fellow botanists Gray, Engelmann, and Newberry. Torrey's personal plant collection went to the New York Botanical Garden.

For more about Torrey, see James Reveal's "JOHN TORREY: A BOTANICAL BIOGRAPHY"
Ephedra torreyana, Tetraneuris torreyana

Townsend, David, 1787-1858: Prominent West Chester, Pennsylvania citizen, County Commissioner, Head Bank Cashier, and devoted botanist of Chester County. Was an 1826 founding member of the Chester County Cabinet of Natural Science which grew into today's West Chester University.

David Townsend was a life-long friend and business and civic associate of Dr. William Darlington (1782-1863) who was the first M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, founder of the town bank, civic leader, three term Congressman, devoted botanist, and first American botanical biographer.  John Torrey, who considered Darlington his friend and respected fellow botanist, named Darlingtonia californica (and California named a state park) for him, other plants are named for him, and The Darlington Herbarium on the campus of West Chester University is named for him.  (The West Chester University Herbarium has specimens collected by Engelmann, Fendler, Fremont, and William Jackson Hooker.) 

Darlington was the botanical Pied Piper of West Chester, leading many locals on numerous botanical outings in the surrounding countryside.  He authored several books, including Florula Cestrica, a complete flora of Chester County. 

It was Darlington (and the eminent botanist John Torrey) who introduced David Townsend to the most famous botanist of the time, William Jackson Hooker, who then initiated a correspondence with Townsend.  Hooker proposed exchanging Townsend's American plant specimens for British natural history books. Townsend eagerly accepted the offer and sent Hooker 700 plants he had collected in the West Chester area.

Hooker was very impressed with Townsend's collection and he utilized it in his Flora Boreali-Americana.  Hooker wrote to Darlington in March of 1833:

"I thank you a thousand times for introducing me to... David Townsend.  His copious and beautiful specimens have delighted me". 

At a later time Hooker wrote Darlington:

"The handsomest specimens I ever received were prepared and sent by David Townsend of West Chester, and Professor Short, of Kentucky". Both quotations are from Darlington's "Memorial of David Townsend". 

Hooker states in Flora Boreali-Americana (click the title to read):

"I have named the genus [Townsendia] in compliment to David Townsend, Esq. of West Chester, Pennsylvania who having imbibed the most ardent love of Botany from his friend and instructor Dr. Darlington of the same city, has devoted his leisure hours to the science with eminent success. The plant now under consideration is peculiarly worthy of bearing his name because he has studied and ably discriminated the numerous Pennsylvania species of the allied Genus Aster."

In Darlington's "Memorial of David Townsend", read on the day of David Townsend's funeral, Darlington said of Townsend,

"The discriminating eye, and habits of close observation, so important in a Bank officer, were equally available to the Botanist, and quite germane to the investigations of genera and species. The Plants of Chester county, and the surrounding districts, became familiar acquaintances, and were duly arranged in his Herbarium.  His aptitude and pains-taking skill in preparing specimens, were very remarkable".

The type specimen of Townsendia was not collected by Townsend; it was collected by Richardson in 1823 in Saskatchewan on the Franklin Expedition. Click here to see  Townsendia annua, Townsendia glabella, Townsendia incana, Townsendia leptotes and click here to see Townsendia rothrockii.

The Hooker correspondence information and quotation were provided to me by the Library and Archives staff at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and by Diane Rofini, Chester County Historical Society Librarian. 

Townsend, John Kirk, 1809-1851: Massachusetts ornithologist, botanist, medical doctor?, pharmacist?  By the early 1830s Townsend was a well known and highly respected ornithologist and in the early 1830s he made his first new bird species discovery, Townsend's Bunting.  He also made a complete survey of the birds of West Chester County, Pennsylvania, just west of his home in Philadelphia. 

Townsend was invited by Thomas Nuttall, eminent botanist (and ornithologist), to travel across the continent on merchant Nathaniel Wyeth's 1834-1837 trip to the Columbia River.  Townsend's description of the Wyeth Expedition, A Narrative of a Journey Across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River, is a well-told tale of how such an expedition was carried out; the virgin land, animals, and plants encountered; the Indian tribes met; the heady enthusiasm of a scientist in a glorious new world; and the travails of such a trip.

John James Audubon and Townsend knew each other and Audubon considered Townsend a superb ornithologist.  Townsend shared his Wyeth Expedition collection of scores of newly discovered western birds with Audubon who painted them all and included them in his master work, The Bird's of America.  Apparently credit was not given to Townsend's satisfaction, and he and Audubon argued about the rights to the bird collection.

John Kirk Townsend is not the Townsend that the Townsendia genus of Asteraceae is named for; that is David Townsend (see above). John Kirk is the Townsend of Townsend's Solitaire and many other birds and mammals. 

Tracy, Samuel Mills, 1847-1920: Professor of Botany at the University of Missouri, published Flora of Missouri, retired in 1897 and moved near Biloxi where he specialized in grasses.  Collected throughout the South into Texas and in 1898 made a collecting trip to the La Platas in the company of Charles Baker.  His collection became the nucleus of the S. M. Tracy Herbarium at Texas A&M University.  Cirsium tracyi  Erigeron tracyi

Tradescant, John, 1570s-1638: Famed British traveler, plant collector, and gardener.  Father of John Tradescant the Younger (1608-1662).  The two are revered as the founders of English gardening.  In their time they introduced scores of plants to England and designed gardens for earls, dukes, and in 1630 John the Elder became "Keeper of His Majesty's Garden" for Charles I.  In 1625 John the Elder founded the Museum Tradescantianum, the first public museum in England; its garden was the most extensive in Europe. Its centerpiece, The Ark, housed a wide variety of natural objects from around the world and was visited by travelers, intellectuals, and local school children. John the Elder helped financially support an expedition to Virginia in 1617 and it was this expedition that brought back the plant that Linnaeus later named Tradescantia virginiana. This is an eastern relative of the plant shown on this web site, Tradescantia occidentalis.  Among other plants John introduced to England were the Apricot, Phlox, Lilac, Gladiola, Virginia Creeper, Poppy, and the Tulip and Larch Trees.

Trautvetter, Ernst Rudolf, (1809-1889): Russian botanist (at Tartu University) who specialized in the flora of the Caucasus and central Asia and was author of De Echinope genere capita (1833) and the Decas plantarum novarum (1882).  Click to read Trautvetter's worksTrautvetteria caroliniensis

Walker, Ernest P, 1891-1969: Before moving to Washington, D.C. in 1927 to work at the National Zoo, Walker had lived in Missouri (where he was born), Colorado, Wyoming (where he attended the University of Wyoming), and Alaska (where he was a game warden for twelve years).  He was a devoted naturalist specializing in mammals; the dedication in one of his books reads: "To the mammals, great and small, who contribute so much to the welfare and happiness of man (another mammal) but receive so little in return except blame, abuse and extermination."  Walker became Assistant Director of the National Zoo in 1930 and remained in this position until his retirement in 1956. Walker's 1964 Mammals of the World  has remained a classic; its sixth edition came out in 1999.  Camissonia walkeri

Watson, Sereno, 1826-1892: Yale graduate, taught school, studied medicine (but "left with a much diminished respect for medical practitioners and professors in general, apart from medicine itself, which is a noble profession"), restarted his medical studies with his older brother in Illinois where, in 1854, he began his medical practice. 

Watson lasted just two years as a doctor.  He then held various jobs (insurance salesman, writer, etc.), and re-entered Yale to study chemistry and mineralogy in 1866. 

Watson was always an introverted and quiet person, unsure of his calling in life until he met botany.  In 1867 he went to California and, in his words, was "unsettled and do not know where I will be nor at what business."  Soon after arriving in San Francisco, Watson heard about the Fortieth Parallel Survey led by Clarence King and he set off alone walking to find King's Expedition in the Sierras. 

In his 1903 presentation to the National Academy of Science, William Brewer, Watson's eminent botanical co-worker and friend, said that Watson was "so earnestly anxious to join the expedition that, if there was no scientific work for him, he offered to accept any position the camp offered. He was engaged to assist in topography, observe barometer, and "make himself generally useful" in such ways as he could. He entered on this new career as a volunteer with "wages nominal," his official rank and duties sufficiently vague to include a vast range of possibilities". 

When W. W. Bailey, the King Expedition botanist, became ill, Watson assisted him with the botanical work of the Expedition.  Watson's "untiring diligence, his keen observation of plants, his uncomplaining endurance of the many discomforts and hardships of desert campaigning, soon gave evidence of his zeal in scientific work, and his patient, kind, and gentle personality soon endeared him to the whole camp".  Clarence King said of Watson,

He impressed me as a man of work, grimly and conscientiously in earnest.... He smiled only as a forced concession to humor.... Everything pertaining to his duty was sacred....  He soon learned to ride, and after the first anxieties regarding his duties had worn off, he began to enjoy the campaign life and the weird scenery of the region with the greatest enthusiasm.  Mr. Bailey [the Expedition botanist] became more and more subject to camp illness and at last gave up and went home to the East....  I then installed Watson in charge of the botany. He was then as nearly perfectly happy as I have ever seen a human being.

Watson collected with the King Expedition through California and to the Great Salt Lake over the next two years.  At the end of the field season in 1869 he went to New Haven, Connecticut, where he began working on the King Expedition botanical report with Daniel Eaton

My work is at Professor Eaton's house, where all my plants are. I spend from two to twelve hours a day upon them and it is going to be an everlasting job to work them up. It is the best and the largest collection that has ever been brought in by any government party and promises to yield a fair proportion of new species.

The 1871 published report, finished at the Harvard Herbarium, was, said William Brewer, "the first descriptive list of species of the whole known flora of any region of western North America."  It contained 1325 species.

Watson's 1871 King Expedition botany report gained him wide recognition and respect, especially from Asa Gray, who in 1872 hired Watson as his personal assistant at the Harvard Herbarium.  In June of 1874, Harvard University hired Watson as Curator of the Harvard Herbarium, the position he retained until his death in 1892.  Watson made major contributions to botany in this position: He described and named thousands of plants; he began work on a  North American Botany Bibliographical Index (but finished just one volume in 1878); with Henry Brewer and Asa Gray, Watson wrote the first volume of the Botany of California in 1876 (click to read); the second volume, by Watson alone, was published in 1880; with John Colter in 1889, Watson published a revision of Gray's Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States (commonly known as Gray's Manual, first published by Gray in 1848.) (Click to read.)

Weber, William A., 1918-: Professor Emeritus of Botany at the University of Colorado. Weber has collected and studied in Colorado, other areas of the western United States, Australia, northern and central Europe, the Mediterranean, Arctic America, the Galapagos Islands, Chile, and New Guinea.  Weber is the author of the present day standard botanical keys for Colorado: Colorado Flora, Western Slope and Colorado Flora, Eastern Slope 2012, 4th edition.  In July, 2007 he published Bryophytes of Colorado.

Bill Weber
Knowing smile by
Bill Weber,
photo by Jan Turner,
and beaded lanyard
by Betty Schneider

Weber has championed the careful reevaluation of family, genus, and species and has split all of these numerous times to provide distinct classifications. 

(See also Rydberg, who Weber considers one of the great Rocky Mountain botanists). 

Click for part one of the interview I did with Bill Weber.  Go to page 8 in this and each of the following issues.
Click for part two.
Click for part three.
Click for part four.

Read the following Weber publications:

Additions to the Galapagos and Cocos Islands Lichen and Bryophyte Floras
The American Cockerell
King of Colorado Botany, Charles Christopher Parry
Bryophytes of Colorado: Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts
Middle Asian Element in the Southern Rocky Mountain Flora of the Western United States

See also: Wikipedia

Click for Colorado Public Radio interview with Weber.

Lessons from Weber.

Werner, Abraham Gottlieb, (1749-1817): German geologist, wrote the first modern textbook of descriptive mineralogy based on composition. Became Inspector and Teacher of Mining and Metallurgy at the Freiberg School of Mines, Germany. Taught at Freiberg forty years and his students included Humboldt. Werner was elected to the Academy of Sciences in 1812. Robert Jameson, Regius Professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh, was the founder and life president of the Wernerian Society, a learned society interested in the broad field of natural history. Among its members were Sir Joseph Banks, Sir William Parry, and James Watt. Darwin attended a number of meetings.  Packera werneriifolia

Whipple, Amiel Weeks, 1816-1863: Graduate of West Point who participated in several military surveys in the East and West. In 1853 Whipple was placed in charge of surveying a possible southern route for the Transcontinental Railroad from Arkansas through the Panhandle of Oklahoma and on to Los Angeles along the 35th parallel. 

Later explorers utilized Whipple's report to further explore this region, and years later a rail line and Highway 66 followed the route. (The Whipple Survey, as part of Reports of explorations and surveys to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, can be read on-line.)

The eruption of the Civil War ended consideration of a southern route for the transcontinental railroad.  Whipple moved into the War as a chief topographical engineer, participated in the first battle of Bull Run, and became friends with President Lincoln.  Whipple was gravely wounded in action in 1863 while supervising the construction of barricades during the battle of Chancellorsville.  He died four days later in Washington D.C. shortly after Lincoln had promoted him to Major General.  Penstemon whippleanus  Cylindropuntia whipplei

Wingate, Benjamin, 182?-1864: Namesake of Fort Wingate, New Mexico.  Wingate Enlisted in the army in 1846, served in the Mexican/American War, rose from Private to Captain (and then Major immediately before his death).  In 1860 Wingate supervised the building of Fort Fauntleroy in New Mexico (just east of Gallup).  The Fort was renamed Fort Wingate in 1864 to honor Wingate, who died from injuries sustained in the 1862 Civil War Battle of Valverde, Confederate Arizona (along the Rio Grande, now in New Mexico).  Astragalus wingatanus 

Wislizenus, Friedrich Adolph, 1810-1889: German born physician and naturalist who settled in St. Louis in 1835 and became a friend and medical associate of the eminent physician and botanist, George Engelmann.  Engelmann tutored Wislizenus in botanical techniques, but according to Ewan, Engelmann felt Wislizenus was an "unbotanical collector" who had the luck to find some special plants that trained botanists missed. 

Wislizenus joined an 1839 expedition from St. Louis through Wyoming into Idaho on the Oregon Trail and then to the headwaters of the Columbia where he decided, after four months of travels, to abandon his plans to continue to California and instead decided to turn back to St. Louis. There he wrote of the trip in A Journey to The Rocky Mountains in the Year 1839. (Read the Journey on-line). The Journey shows Wislizenus to have been perceptive and wise in his observations of the country, the plants and animals, and the Indian tribes. 

Of his reason for commencing the trip, Wislizenus says:

SOME human beings, like birds of passage, are ill at ease when kept for a considerable length of time under the same sky. They consider all Nature one great family; the whole world their home. I will not decide whether or not I belong to this class; but I do know that from time to time an irresistible fever for wandering seizes me, and that I find no better remedy against the moods and crochets of hum-drum daily life than change of place and of air.

The Journey records numerous, observations. Those about the native tribes are particularly interesting:

With these manifold uses which the Indian makes of the buffalo, it will not seem strange to us, that this animal is the beginning and end of all their religious ceremonials; that great buffalo hunts can only be begun with mysterious rites; that the brave Indian dies in the belief that he is going to a land full of buffalo; and that one chief ground of the hatred of the Indians for the whites consists in their dread that the buffalo herds will be driven away and destroyed. The Indian and the buffalo are Siamese twins; both live and thrive only on one ground, that of the wilderness. Both will perish together.

Wislizenus concludes his Journey thusly:

A transformation of this remarkable country seems then at hand. It is perhaps only a few years until the plow upturns the virgin soil, which is now only touched by the lightfooted Indian or the hoof of wild animals. Every decade will change the character of the country materially, and in a hundred years perhaps the present narratives of mountain life may sound like fairy tales.

In 1846 Wislizenus joined a group to Santa Fe, and, not knowing that in April of 1846 war had broken out between the United States and Mexico, he went to Mexico, and was captured and held as a prisoner of war.  His Mexican captors obviously did not see him as a threat as they allowed him to botanize near his prison where he collected specimens which Engelmann described in Wislizenus' Tour through Northern Mexico, 1848. 

Earlier in this trip, Wislizenus was the first to collect (in the Sangre de Cristo Range in New Mexico) the ubiquitous and lovely Pinus edulis, the Pinyon Pine -- which he returned to Engelmann to be described, the description first appearing in Wislizenus' Tour.

Near Santa Fe on his 1846 trip, Wislizenus also collected samples from a Cottonwood tree, the Rio Grande Cottonwood, Populus deltoides variety wislizeni. This is the dominant Cottonwood through much of New Mexican and the Four Corners area. See Populus deltoides subspecies wislizenii for more details about this Rio Grande Cottonwood and the Fremont's Cottonwood.

Wislizenus spent most of his adult life as a physician in St. Louis where he helped to found the Missouri Historical Society and the St. Louis Academy of Science.    Dimorphocarpa wislizenii  Populus deltoides subspecies wislizenii

Wister, Charles J., 1782-1865: Amateur scientist who retired in 1819 to devote himself to botany and mineralogy, subjects he lectured on at the Germantown Academy (Pennsylvania). Erected an astronomical observatory at his Germantown, Pennsylvania home. Friend and botanizing companion of Thomas Nuttall. (Nuttall named the genus Wisteria in 1818 in memory of Caspar Wistar, a relative of Charles Wister and an American professor of anatomy who died that year.) Charles Wister was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1811. Corallorhiza wisteriana

Wolf, John, 1820-1897: Plant collector in the East and West. Participated in the Wheeler Survey (1869-1879), one of many surveys of the Topographical Engineers of the U. S. Army -- this one having fourteen trips and producing forty volumes of information. (See Hayden.)   Porter and Coulter utilized Wolf's collections (and other collections) in the first Colorado flora book, Synopsis of the Flora of Colorado.  Wolf published a list of Illinois mosses, liverworts, and lichens in 1878.  Ribes wolfii

Woods, Joseph, 1776-1864: English architect who botanized extensively. Retired from architecture when 59 and devoted himself to botany.  He received wide recognition for his “Synopsis of the British Species of Rosa”.  Made numerous European botanical excursions and published botanical papers.  In 1850 wrote the popular The Tourist’s Flora: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Flowering Plants and Ferns of the British Islands, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and the Italian Islands  based on his years of botanizing in Europe.  Rosa woodsii

Wooton, Elmer Ottis, 1865-1945: Professor of Botany at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  He wrote Descriptions of New Plants Preliminary to a Report Upon the Flora of New Mexico (1913) and Flora of New Mexico (1915).  Kelly Allred, recently retired professor and herbarium curator at New Mexico State University, calls Wooton "the preeminent botanist of New Mexico". Senecio wootonii

Wormskjold, Morton, 1783-1845: Danish botanist who led a naval expedition to Greenland in 1813 and made the first major collection of Greenland flora. Subsequently sailed with Adelbert von Chamisso and J. F. Eschscholtz on Captain Otto Kotzebue's exploring voyage on the cutterbrig Rurik. (Read about the voyage).  Veronica wormskjoldii variety wormskjoldii

Wright, Charles, 1811-1885: Yale graduate, teacher, surveyor, trusted plant collector for Asa Gray and John Torrey.  Prolific collector with the Mexican Boundary Survey of 1849 and 1851-1852.  Also was on a north Pacific expedition, 1853-1855.  According to Ewan, Wright and Gray at times labeled Wright's collections incorrectly causing significant confusion.   Glandularia wrightii now Glandularia bipinnatifida, Datura wrightii, Cordylanthus wrightii

Wyeth, Nathaniel Jarvis, 1802-1856: Massachusetts hotelier and ice-making entrepreneur who in 1832 traveled by land to Oregon in an unsuccessful attempt to set up a fur trading business. Click to read about Wyeth's 1832 trip. On the return portion of this trip in 1833 Wyeth collected numerous plants for his botanist friend Thomas Nuttall, who described 55 new species from Wyeth's collections. Included in the collection was Castilleja angustifolia, the first plant collected for science in the Intermountain West, the area that Arthur Cronquist, Arthur Holmgren, Noel Holmgren, Pat Holmgren, and James Reveal 150 years later cover in their famous, Intermountain Flora

When Wyeth returned home he immediately made plans for a second western trip, a trip he had begun planning at least as early as July 1833 in a letter to Nuttall:

"I shall remain here one more year. [He did not and returned to Boston in the fall of 1833]. You if in Camb. may expect to see me in about one year from the time you receive this. I shall then ask you if you will follow another expedition to this country in pursuit of your science."

He easily induced Nuttall to accompany him.  Nuttall in turn recruited his young ornithologist friend John Townsend.  The three set off from Independence, Missouri on April 28, 1834 in a "caravan, consisting of seventy men, and two hundred and fifty horses" (Townsend's words in his very interesting 1839 book, A Narrative of a Journey Across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River. Click to read the Narrative on-line).  Wyeth was an able and affable leader, popular with his expedition crew, always taking it on himself to settle problems with Indians, fur traders, and lost trails.

Click to read Wyeth's account of his first journey and second journey, and click to read his correspondence

Among the species that Nuttall described from Wyeth's first western trip collections of 1832-1833 were Iris missouriensis, Fritillaria atropurpurea, and Wyethia amplexicaulis, a large, lovely, and common Asteraceae that often covers dozens of acres of montane meadows.

Zinn, Johann, 1727-1759: German botanist, member of the Berlin Academy, and Professor of Medicine and Director of the Botanic Garden at the University of Gottingen.  Zinn's name is best known for the genus Zinnia that Linnaeus named for him, but he is also very well known in medicine for his book, Descriptio Anatomica Oculi Humani, a work that led to having Zinn's name attached to a number of structures in the human eye.  Zinnia grandiflora is found in eastern Colorado and most counties of Arizona and New Mexico, but it is not found on the West Slope of Colorado or in Utah.  I hope to photograph it soon.

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