Abstract Detail

Botanical History

McColl, Ron [1], Cressler, Walt [1].

The ‘Botanical Nieces’ of William Darlington.

The Pennsylvania botanist William Darlington (1782-1863) exchanged thousands of letters and artifacts with many of the world’s leading botanists during a career that would lead Asa Gray to label his friend the Nestor of American botany. Early in Darlington’s career, such correspondents were nearly always white males, either gentlemen scholars like Darlington himself or members of a growing population of professional scientists. Over time, however, Darlington’s network included an increasing number of younger, female correspondents. This paper and its accompanying data visualizations examine the changing membership, purpose, and rhetoric of Darlington’s correspondence network. We explore the lives, botanical practices, and letters of several of Darlington’s female contacts. Addressing both the past and the future, Darlington wrote to the female descendants of his botanical heroes, the daughters and wives of his deceased male correspondents, and the female teachers and young students of several private academies. We argue these women and others within his circle of correspondents helped fill the void left by the death of his wife and the relative disinterest of his own children in botany, while providing the aging gentleman of science a role as mentor, teacher, and idol. While doing so, we closely read the rhetoric of selected epistles to consider how gender governed informal scientific discourse during the rise of professional science.

1 - West Chester University, 25 W. Rosedale Ave., West Chester PA, PA, 19383, United States

scientific networks
nineteenth century botany.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Number: BH1003
Abstract ID:804
Candidate for Awards:None

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