Saturday, September 18, 2004

Asa Gray's Earliest Publications

For readers interested in Asa Gray and his early publications, I highly recommend the article by Harold William Rickett and Charles Lewis Gilly in the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, (Vol. 96, Number 6, June 1942; pages 461-470) Asa Gray's Earliest Botanical Publications. This article goes so far as to indicate the points which distinguish various states of the 1836 Annals of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York (which included Gray's article on the Rhynchospora of New York).

Gray's first published article is often overlooked and very difficult to find- so much so, that is was overlooked in Sereno Watson and George Goodale's bibliography of Gray's works ( Watson & Goodale; American Journal of Science, Vol. 136; Appendix: 1-42; 1888). It is entitled A Catalogue of the Indigenous Flowering and Filicoid plants Growing within Twenty Miles of Bridgewater, (Oneida County) New York. It appeared in the Annual Report of the Regents of the University of the State of New York made to the Legislature, Feb.28, 1832 (Senate No. 70) published in Albany 1833.

Gray had graduated form Cental New York's Fairfield Medical College in January 1831 and for the remainder of the year practiced medicine in nearby Bridgewater, a village only 9 miles from his birthplace in Sauquoit. He had earlier taken his apprenticeship under Bridgewater physician Dr. John Foote Trowbridge, and upon graduation returned to practice with him. Notwithstanding this medical practice, Gray did not neglect the opportunities to study the flora of the region. After this tenure in Bridgewater, Gray taught natural sciences at the Utica Gymnasium from May to June 1832 and from these experiences came this first obscure publication.

The second of his "publications" was a very limited edition exsiccatae entitled North American Gramineae and Cyperaceae, Part I, issued in 1834, and offered primarily by subscription. I will not comment further upon it here, because other than the printed title page, dedication, foreward, descriptions, index, and labels, it cannot be regarded as a publication in the usual sense.

Thus the first of Gray's papers to receive widespread readership through a mainstream publication was an 1834 contribution to Benjamin Silliman Sr.'s journal, the American Journal of Science and Arts. This was a joint article with Dr. Ithamar Bingham (J.B.) Crawe of Watertown, N.Y. It comes as something of a surprise to learn that it was on a non-botanical subject: A Sketch of the Mineralogy of a Portion of Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties (N.Y.); (Am. Jour. Sci. 25:346-350). Dr. Crawe and Gray had wandered together through Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties during the Spring of 1833, studying the geology of the region. Dr. Crawe was fated to perish in a tragic boating accident.

Gray's prodigious botanical publishing career would truly commence shortly thereafter with his first major botanical publications, two papers read before the Lyceum of Natural History of New York in December, 1834:

  1. A Monograph of the North American Species of Rhynchosopora


  2. A Notice of Some New, Rare, or Otherwise Interesting Plants, From the Northern and Western Portions of the State of New York

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

An Upcoming Symposium - Saturday, November 6, 2004

An event to put on the "to do" list:

Inspired by Nature: The Art of The Natural History Book


in collaboration with


Saturday, November 6, 2004
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Rhode Island School of Design Auditorium
Canal Walkway at Market Square
Providence, RI

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Number 9 - Name That Botanist


click on image to enlarge

This next distinguished Cornell botanist (B. 1881; D. 1969) was a vascular plant anatomist and morphologist with a special interest in floral development and evolution. In 1926 he co-authored (with Karl McKay Wiegand) The Flora of the Cayuga Lake Basin, New York : Vascular Plants. His doctoral thesis at Harvard [and the subject of a 1913 paper by him in the Annals of Botany (Vol 27; p. 1-38)] was entitled "The Morphology of Agathis australis (Lamb.) Steud."

His most important books were:

  • An Introduction to Plant Anatomy, 1925 (with Laurence H. MacDaniels)
  • Morphology of Vascular Plants, Lower Groups (Psilophytales to Filicales), 1936
  • Morphology of Angiosperms, 1961.

HERE for the ID.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Number 8 - Name That Botanist


Click HERE for the ID on the verso of this Gustavus W. Pach photograph.

Our next American botanist (1849-1911) continues the series of Cornellians which is especially apropos in light of the upcoming (September 9-11) Agricultural History Society Symposium celebrating "A Century of Scientific Outreach" at Cornell University. Our subject sat for this portrait on the occasion of his 1874 graduation from Cornell University. He studied with Louis Agassiz on Penikese Island in 1875, and received his M.S. in 1876. He was the first cryptogamic botanist at Cornell, serving on the faculty from 1876-1892.

Upon entering Cornell as a freshman in 1870 he had become acquainted with fellow student (Cornell Class of 1872), future Penikese alumnus, ichthyologist, and President of both Indiana and Stanford Universities (first President of Stanford), David Starr Jordan, who was then an instructor in botany under Professor Albert N. Prentiss.

Prentiss was a graduate of the first (1861) class of the Michigan Agricultural College, and was chosen as Professor of Botany, Horticulture and Arboriculture on the first (1868) faculty at Cornell.

They became close friends and roommates, and our subject eventually succeeded Jordan as Prentiss' assistant. In 1880 he took a year's leave from Cornell to substitute for Jordan as acting professor of biology at Indiana University. Their common background was no doubt a factor in our man's 1892 appointment as Professor of Systematic Botany at Stanford, where he remained until his 1911 retirement. Jordan wrote his memoriam in Science [August 4, 1911, (N.S. Vol. XXXIV; No. 866) p. 143-145].

The title page of his first publication, The Cayuga Flora, is shown here. (His name appears as the author- don't click unless you want to reveal his ID.)