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Phillip Drennon Thomas

Bartram, John (23 March 1699–22 September 1777), botanist, was born in Marple, Pennsylvania, the son of William Bartram and Elizabeth Hunt, farmers. His parents were members of the Society of Friends, and, although raised in this tradition, by 1757 Bartram had departed from Quaker teachings by opposing the pacifism of the society and by denying the divinity of Jesus. Excluded in that year from fellowship with the local community of Friends, he nevertheless continued to attend their Sunday services. After the death of his mother in 1701 and his father’s immigration to North Carolina with a new wife around 1709, young Bartram remained in Pennsylvania and was raised by his grandmother and an uncle, Isaac Bartram. His formal education was limited; he was handicapped throughout his career as a naturalist by his poor grammar and inadequate knowledge of Latin....

Article

Bartram, William (09 April 1739–22 July 1823), naturalist, artist, and explorer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Bartram, a naturalist, and Ann Mendenhall. Unlike his father, who was essentially self-taught, William Bartram benefited from a rigorous formal education at the Philadelphia Academy, where he studied history, Latin, French, and the classics. From an early age, however, his overriding interest was in nature. He spent much of his time as a young man traveling with his father to collect and draw plants and other specimens for John Bartram’s overseas patrons and scientific correspondents....

Article

Robert F. Erickson

Douglas, David (25 June 1799–12 July 1834), botanist, was born in Scone, Perthshire, Scotland, the son of John Douglas, a stonemason, and Jean Drummond. He spent a few years in the parish schools and was then apprenticed, at the age of eleven, at the earl of Mansfield’s gardens. Through reading, field studies, and practical gardening, Douglas developed an enthusiasm for natural history, especially botany, which would be the single passion of his life. In 1820 he obtained a post at the botanical garden in Glasgow, and there met the famous botanist William Jackson Hooker. Hooker became his mentor and then his close friend, and the two went on many botanizing expeditions in the Scottish Highlands and Islands....

Article

Fairchild, David Grandison (07 April 1869–06 August 1954), agricultural explorer and botanist, was born in Lansing, Michigan, the son of George Thompson Fairchild, a college professor and administrator, and Charlotte Pearl Halsted. Fairchild attended Kansas State College of Agriculture and graduated in 1888 with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture. He began his graduate work at Iowa State College (later Iowa State University), studying plant pathology under the guidance of his uncle, Byron D. Halsted. When Halsted accepted a professorship at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Fairchild moved east to continue his graduate studies....

Article

Fraser, John (1750–26 April 1811), botanical explorer and collector, was born in Tomnacross near Kiltarlity, Inverness-shire, Scotland, the son of Donald Fraser, a farmer and grounds officer of the Jacobite leader Simon Fraser, thirteenth Lord Lovat. John Fraser’s mother was probably one Mary McLean of Cragganmore, Inverness-shire. Nothing is known of his childhood and education. In the 1770s, Fraser moved to London and established himself as a draper and hosier in Paradise Row, Chelsea, where he married Francis Shaw in 1778. The Frasers had two sons, John (baptized 1780), who accompanied his father on two collecting trips to North America, and James Thomas (baptized 1782), who helped manage the family’s botanical nursery in England in the 1800s....

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Hansen, Niels Ebbesen (04 January 1866–05 October 1950), horticulturalist and plant explorer, was born near Ribe, Denmark, the son of Andreas Hansen, a mural designer and altar painter, and Bodil Midtgaard, who died when he was an infant. After remarrying, his father immigrated to the United States in 1872, and the following year Niels, along with his stepmother and his two sisters, joined the father in New York. Two years later the family moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where Niels attended public school, completing the first eight grades in five years. A precocious student, he finished the last two years of high school through a personal course of study with Iowa Secretary of State John A. Hull while working in his office. He graduated from Iowa Agricultural College (predecessor of Iowa State University) in 1887. After working for four years in private nurseries, he returned to the college as an assistant professor and completed the requirements for a master of science degree in botany and horticulture there in 1895....

Article

Mexia, Ynes Enriquetta Julietta (24 May 1870–12 July 1938), botanical collector, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Enrique Antonio Mexia, a representative of the Mexican government, and Sarah R. Wilmer. Her mother left her husband in 1873 and moved with her children to a ranch owned by the Mexia family in Limestone County, Texas. Ynes Mexia probably attended local schools, and for short periods she was at Quaker schools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Ontario, Canada. From 1886 to 1887 she attended Saint Joseph’s Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. She then moved to Mexico City to a property owned by her father. In 1897 she married Herman Lane (or de Laue), a merchant in Mexico City; they had no children, and he died in 1904. When her father died in 1898, a long lawsuit over his will finally left Ynes Mexia as an inheritor. She had established a business of raising poultry and other animals on her property in Mexico City. In 1907 or 1908 Mexia married Agustin A. de Reygados, one of her employees; they had no children. In 1909 she went to San Francisco for medical advice, probably for a nervous breakdown. Reygados almost bankrupted her business, so she sold it, divorced him, and stayed in San Francisco. There she resumed her maiden name and did social work. She became a U.S. citizen in 1924....

Article

Michaux, François-André (16 August 1770–23 October 1855), plant explorer and silviculturist, was born at the royal estate at Satory, next to Versailles, France, the son of André Michaux, then overseer of the estate, and Cécile Claye, daughter of a local farmer. His mother died shortly after his birth. Little is known of his early education, but he appears to have been brought up by an aunt. In 1785 he accompanied his father to North America on a royal commission to explore the forests for trees that could be grown in France. Though the elder Michaux sometimes took his son on his journeys, he generally left him to look after the nursery that he had established near Charleston, South Carolina, in 1786....

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Rusby, Henry Hurd (26 April 1855–18 November 1940), pharmacognosist and botanical explorer, was born in Franklin, New Jersey, the son of John Rusby, a country storekeeper and a farmer, and Abigail Holmes. John Rusby was an ardent abolitionist who maintained a station on the Underground Railroad, with young Henry helping to pass provisions to escaping slaves. Henry acquired an interest in plants at an early age from his mother, and a village schoolteacher encouraged his interest in botanical collecting. Rusby studied at the Massachusetts State Normal School and the Centenary Collegiate Institute (N.J.) and then taught for several years in country schools in Massachusetts and New Jersey. He also undertook the first of his botanical explorations, a field trip to the Southwest, to study the flora of the region in 1880, under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution....

Article

Wright, Charles (29 October 1811–11 August 1885), botanical explorer, was born in Wethersfield, Connecticut, the son of James Wright, a carpenter and farmer, and Mary Goodrich. He entered Yale College in 1831 and graduated in 1835. He may have developed a serious interest in botany while at Yale, although at that time the college offered no specific instruction in that subject. He trained as a land surveyor in a course at Yale when he was a junior, but his first position was as tutor to the children of a wealthy family in Natchez, Mississippi. He continued in this post until financial reverses in the family caused them to let him go....