Abstract Detail



Botanical History

Flannery, Maura [1].

John Torrey in Mid-Career: A Case Study.

Interesting facts are uncovered during research that might not make it into the final publication.  This was true of my examination of a portion of John Torrey’s (1796-1873) papers at the New York Botanical Garden for an article on his correspondence with the Pennsylvania botanist William Darlington.   In this case study on John Torrey in mid-career—that is, during the late 1840s and early 1850s— I’ll use items I didn’t write about earlier.  At that time, Torrey was teaching chemistry and botany for a portion of the year at New York’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and chemistry at Princeton University in New Jersey.  Despite these responsibilities, botany was Torrey’s passion and he worked hard to maintain the place he had carved out in the field, along with other obligations including a family with four children.  He was continuing his work on the Flora of North America with Asa Gray, who had assisted Torrey in New York before becoming professor of natural history at Harvard University.  He and Gray wrote to each other frequently, sharing botanical information and strategizing on how to keep specimens flowing from Western collectors.  They saw themselves in competition with European botanists, including Alphonse de Candolle in Geneva as well as George Bentham and William Jackson Hooker in Britain.  At this time Gray and Torrey were working on the collections from the Wilkes Expeditions, and Torrey on specimens collected by Frémont in the West.  Torrey complained to Gray about the poor quality of some collectors’ specimens, and to Darlington about Gray’s not catching a nomenclatural error.  At another point, Torrey notes that he would hesitate to question a structure in an Isaac Sprague drawing because of the artist’s accuracy.  Later he wrote to Darlington about sending seeds collected by Charles Parry; Torrey would send him one of only six sets, attesting to their longstanding friendship.  Another time, he was so excited about a bundle of California specimens he received from Dr. George Hulse, that he wrote to Gray the next day, and then a week later sent specimens so Gray could examine the plant and Sprague could draw it.  It is amazing how much of the vitality of Torrey’s botany comes through in these snippets from his correspondence.


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Keywords:
John Torrey
historical botany.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Number: HIST1001
Abstract ID:701
Candidate for Awards:None


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