department of botany


The period from 1837 to 1855. — The first appointment to the faculty of the University of Michigan was that of Asa Gray (M.D. College of Physicians and Surgeons [N.Y.] ‘31, A.M. Harvard ‘44, LL.D. Michigan ‘87) in 1838 as Professor of Botany and Zoology. Because of insufficient funds and delay in building, however, students were not admitted until 1841. In the meantime Asa Gray obtained permission to visit Europe. He was paid two years’ salary and was commissioned to purchase books for the Library to the extent of $5,000. Only one botanical publication was included in this initial accession. It apparently was understood that Gray would supply books for the study of botany from his own library. Upon his return from Europe in 1839, he continued his studies in the East. In 1840, he agreed to a continuation of his appointment without salary, and in 1842, when it appeared that there was no immediate prospect of participation in the instruction, he resigned to accept an appointment at Harvard.*

In 1842, Abram Sager (Rensselaer ‘31, M.D. Castleton Medical College ‘35, A.M. hon. Michigan ‘52) was appointed Professor of Botany and Zoology without salary until his teaching should begin. He had been associated with Douglass Houghton, who, as state geologist in 1837-38, conducted the first geological survey, which covered the two southern-most rows of counties. The botanical phases of the survey were handled by John Wright with the assistance of George H. Bull. Sager was responsible for the work on the fauna. Both Sager and Houghton had strong botanical interests. Houghton had been associated with Schoolcraft in his explorations in the upper Mississippi Valley and had published reports of his findings concerning the plants. Houghton and Sager made collections of plants which finally came into the University’s possession.

The act of the state legislature authorizing the geological survey provided that the resulting collections should be deposited with the University. The Regents were apparently very much interested in the development of collections in the field of natural history. They authorized the use of one of the projected professors’ houses for them until the main building should be completed (R.P., 1837-64, p. 70; see Part VIII: University Herbarium for the history of the collections).

Doubtless these collections played a part in the selection of Douglass Houghton as Professor of Geology and Mineralogy in 1839. And in turn, Houghton probably recommended that his co-worker in the geological survey, Abram Sager, be the second Professor of Botany and Zoology. Sager, apparently, was expected to assist Houghton with the collections without pay. Sager at the time was a physician at Jackson.

It is difficult to determine when instruction was first given in botany. On April 17, 1845, the Regents requested Sager to give an elementary course in botany and zoology during the first two months of the next term and provided that “he be paid pro rata for the time engaged.” In the Regents’ Proceedings of August 5, 1846, it was stated that the resolution again authorizing Sager’s employment during the spring term had not been carried into effect because he was unwilling to leave his professional business at Jackson, the compensation for the short period being inadequate. Biology courses before 1849 were evidently not as shown in the Catalogue, where botany was first listed for 1844 (winter term) and, after a two-year omission, reappeared as a half-term summer course. Actually, Dr. Sager taught an elementary course in botany and zoology through about one-half of the summer of 1845 and throughout the summer terms of 1847 and 1848. In the Catalogue of 1848-49 botany was listed as sharing the third term of the freshman year with zoology and was thus continued until 1852-53, when it was moved to the third term of the senior year under the title of Animal and Vegetable Physiology. The following description of the course was given in the Catalogue of 1852-53 (p. 35):

The instruction in this department [Zoology and Botany] will be communicated in a course of lectures during the third term of the fourth year, upon the general and comparative organization of plants, which forms the basis of their systematic arrangement or classification; and vegetable physiology, comprising the sources and mode of nutrition of plants, and their various modes of development and dissemination; also an outline of their geographical distribution and economical history.

A parallel course [in subject matter] on the general and comparative physiology of animals, their classification, habits and relation to human interests, will be given during the term.

Schleiden’s Principles of Botany, Balfour’s Manual of Botany, Gray’s Botanical Text-Book, and Jussieu’s Elements of Botany were given as books of reference for botany.

This course occupied a third of the time of senior students from April 1 to June 29. The first half of the term was apparently devoted to botany, and the second to zoology. Five lectures were given a week. It was required in both the classical and scientific courses. The fourth-year class in 1852-53 consisted of ten students, and in 1854-55, the last year Sager taught the course, sixteen.

In 1852-53 a course in agriculture was proposed in which instruction in botany was planned. In the 1853-54 Catalogue it was stated that instruction “will combine the principles and practise of farming; so as to impart a knowledge of everything connected with the subject except manual labor.” Apparently some lectures concerning various phases of agriculture were given by Professor Charles Fox until his death in 1854. The plan for the development of instruction in agriculture was terminated by an act of the legislature in 1855 providing for the establishment of an agricultural college “within ten miles of the state capitol.”

In 1847, Sager with others successfully petitioned for the establishment of the Department of Medicine and Surgery, and in 1848 he was appointed Professor of Theory and Practice of Medicine in addition to his professorship of botany and zoology. In 1855 he resigned the latter to devote his full time to his professorship in the Medical Department. Sager’s early interest in botany did not grow at the University, his most important contribution, outside of his teaching part of a course in the subject, being the gift of his herbarium in 1866.

The period from 1855 to 1877. — In 1855, Alexander Winchell (Wesleyan ‘47, LL.D. ibid. ‘67) became Professor of Botany, Zoology, and Geology. His scientific reputation was developed mostly in geology. The extent of his training in botany is not entirely clear. He had graduated from Amenia Seminary, Dutchess County, New York, where Erastus O. Haven taught natural science. From this association had arisen a friendship which was an important factor in bringing about Winchell’s invitation later to join the faculty of the University. Winchell graduated from Wesleyan University, Middle-town, Connecticut, in 1847. There is no evidence that he studied botany at that institution. The next year he taught natural science at Pennington Male Seminary in New Jersey. According to his two unpublished autobiographical sketches in the Michigan Historical Collections, he taught botany. He stated that he “entered with irrepressible zeal and delight upon the study of the flora of the vicinity by the aid of that admirable work, Darlington’s Flora Cestrica” and from it he gained “an impulse which has never been lost, so much may be accomplished from an adequate and genial book.” In 1849, he taught at Amenia Seminary, where botany became his favorite pursuit, almost to the exclusion of other fields of natural science. Here he collected and studied 706 species of plants upon which he based his only strictly botanical paper, “Catalogue of Plants … in the Vicinity of Amenia Seminary.” From 1850 to 1853 he conducted two girls’ schools in Alabama. He spent considerable time in studies in various fields of natural history. While head of the Mesopotamia Female Seminary at Eutaw, Alabama, he collected 435 species of plants (Winchell, MS, “Notebook”). The specimens apparently were sent to the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1854 Winchell came to the University of Michigan as Professor of Physics and Civil Engineering. He at once sought to find a place for himself in the fields of natural history. In so doing he apparently antagonized Silas H. Douglass, Professor of Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Geology. He also went directly to the Regents over the head of President Tappan, which doubtless did not lessen the antagonism that had developed between two incompatible temperaments and which unfortunately developed into a bitter feud. However, he achieved his purpose and was appointed Professor of Botany, Zoology, and Geology.

Professor Winchell introduced the laboratory method at the University in instruction in botany. Apparently this was optional at first. In the 1855-56 Catalogue the following statement occurs (p. 37):

Besides the instructions of the lecture room, the professor will afford facilities to those who desire them, for the more careful and minute examination and study of objects, the determination of species and the identification of formations. Short excursions will also be undertaken in term time, and longer ones in vacation for the purpose of bringing students into actual and direct communication with Nature.  A laboratory was established, as shown by the statement in the 1856-57 Catalogue that “such as desire it are permitted to engage in investigations under the eye of the Professor, in the Laboratory attached to this department.”

According to the 1856-57 Catalogue, two courses in botany were offered. One was an elementary course, which followed an elementary course in zoology in the second semester of the junior year; the other was a course called Vegetable Anatomy and Physiology and the Principles of Classification, which was given as an elective course in the senior year. This class met three days each week. A similar course in zoology was given on alternate days, and it is stated that “at the option of the student either of the above courses may be omitted and a daily exercise made of the other.” In 1864-65 the elementary course in botany was moved to the freshman year, in which it was taught for one-third of the semester.

The first mention of graduate study in botany was made in 1858-59. According to the Catalogue of that year (p. 43), advanced instruction was offered both semesters “in some of the departments of Zoology and Botany … to candidates for the Master’s Degrees, and others possessing the requisite elementary information,” and “this will include practical instruction in the use of the microscope and in the methods of anatomical research and a discussion of general principles of classification… Students of these higher courses will be permitted to work with the Professor in the laboratory connected with the department and will receive such assistance as may be found necessary.” Here is the first emphasis upon microscopy, which later became a major field of study. The advanced work in botany was apparently elective, since it was not listed among the required courses for the master’s degree.

In 1873, Professor Winchell resigned to become Chancellor of Syracuse University. This terminated his official connection with the teaching of botany at the University of Michigan, since on his return in 1879 he was appointed Professor of Geology and Paleontology. Although his main interests were in other fields, he did much to advance botanical instruction at the University. He developed two courses in which students were encouraged to study plants as well as books and, especially in the advanced course, to obtain botanical information through their own observations. He took an active interest in the development of the Museum and its collections. He reported that the botanical collections numbered 36,385 specimens upon his resignation in 1873. He strongly supported the theory of evolution. He was a leading member of the Methodist Church and did much to reconcile science and religion.

It is difficult to determine the number of students who specialized in botany with Professor Winchell. It must be remembered that only a few continued for the master’s degree at that time. Three students of this period became prominent in the botanical field. The first of these was William J. Beal (‘59, A.M. ‘62, Ph.D. hon. ‘80), who was for many years Professor of Botany at Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan State College) and one of the leading botanists of the country. The other two were Mark W. Harrington (‘68, A.M. ‘71, LL.D. ‘94) and Volney M. Spalding (‘73, Ph.D. Leipzig ‘94), both prominent later in the development of the botanical department at Michigan. That Winchell also interested other students in botany is shown by the contribution of valuable collections of plants by a number of alumni, notably Josiah T. Scovell, who was a student here between 1867 and 1869, Albert E. Foote (‘67m), and Joseph C. Jones (‘72, A.M. ‘75).

Eugene W. Hilgard (Ph.D. Heidelberg ‘53) succeeded Winchell as Professor of Geology, Zoology, and Botany. He had been Professor of Chemistry at the University of Mississippi and the state geologist. In 1874 his title was changed to Professor of Mineralogy, Geology, Zoology, and Botany. Mark Harrington apparently taught botany.

Harrington, while a senior student (1868), had assisted Winchell in the Museum without compensation. Upon graduation he was appointed Assistant Curator in the Museum. It was his duty to collect and identify specimens, catalogue collections, and prepare material for exchange. In 1870 he was appointed Instructor in Mathematics in addition to his position in the Museum. In 1871, he was given leave of absence to serve as astronomical aide for the United States Coast Survey in Alaska. He did not overlook his botanical opportunities, but made a collection of plants which was sent to the Smithsonian Institution. A set of these was received later by the University. During his absence in 1872, he was appointed Instructor in Geology, Zoology, and Botany. He returned to Ann Arbor in December, 1872, about three months before Winchell’s resignation. In 1873 he became Assistant Professor of Geology, Zoology, and Botany and in 1874, by Professor Hilgard’s request, was placed in charge of the work in zoology and botany. Hilgard resigned in February, 1875, to become Professor of Agricultural Chemistry at the University of California. Harrington continued to give the courses in zoology and botany. In 1876 he was granted leave of absence to study in Europe. While abroad, he resigned (1877) to become a professor of astronomy and mathematics in China. This terminated his official connection with the teaching of botany at the University. When Harrington returned, in 1879, he was appointed Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Observatory.

Although Harrington was in charge of botany for only a few years, he contributed much to the development of the subject. The establishment of the School of Pharmacy brought increased demands, and he developed a course in pharmaceutical botany in which emphasis was placed upon the identification of drugs of vegetable origin and the detection of adulterants. In 1874 he offered for the first time a course dealing exclusively with cryptogamic plants.

The botanical collections were considerably increased through Harrington’s efforts; in his report to the president in 1875, however, he complained that the great increase in his teaching load had prevented him from properly caring for them. Among the accessions were the plants collected by J. B. Steere on his trip to South America, the East Indies, and the Philippines. Harrington studied the ferns, finishing his investigation at Kew in England. His paper giving the results of this study, “Tropical Ferns Collected by Professor Steere in the years 1870-75,” apparently was the first botanical research paper to be published by a member of the faculty.

The period from 1877 to 1904. — In 1876, Volney M. Spalding was appointed Instructor in Zoology and Botany, to assume Harrington’s duties while he was on leave in Europe. After Harrington’s resignation in 1877, Joseph B. Steere (‘68, ‘70l, Ph.D. hon. ‘75), who had been Assistant Professor of Paleontology, became Assistant Professor of Zoology and Paleontology. Spalding continued as Instructor in Zoology and Botany. Whether he continued to teach courses in zoology is not certain. His title was changed to Instructor in Biology and Botany in 1878, and it is probable that Steere gave the courses in zoology and paleontology and that Spalding taught the course in biology and the courses in botany. At any rate, the work in botany was definitely separated from that in zoology in 1879, when Steere became Professor of Zoology and Curator of the Museum, and Spalding was made Assistant Professor of Botany. Spalding became Professor of Botany in 1886.

Instruction in botany for a time followed the pattern established by Harrington. In 1877, Louisa Maria Reed (‘76, M.S. ‘77) was appointed as an assistant in microscopical botany. In 1878 she married Charles H. Stowell, Instructor in the Physiological Laboratory, later Professor of Histology and Microscopy. Until her resignation in 1889 the courses in botany were given by Volney M. Spalding and Mrs. Stowell. For a year or two she assisted Professor Spalding. She then taught the courses in structural botany, histology, pharmaceutical botany, and microscopy. Her title did not do justice to her responsibilities and attainments. She taught half of the courses in botany, and her scientific accomplishments were recognized by election as fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society of London — the first woman to be so honored. She certainly deserves recognition as the first woman instructor of the University.

Professor Spalding gave a general course in botany entitled Elements of Biology (Plant Life), which was described as “a study of typical species of plants with reference to structure, physiology and development.” It has been continued to the present (for some years with a similar course in zoology as General Biology 1 and 2).

During the first part of this period, Spalding also devoted considerable attention to the study of cryptogamic botany with special emphasis upon fungi. This naturally led into the subject of fungi as plant parasites. Plant pathology was then in its infancy. Several students of this period, notably Erwin F. Smith (‘86, Sc.D. ‘89) and Lewis R. Jones (‘89, Ph.D. ‘04), became leaders in this field.

In 1881 Spalding taught a new course, Forestry, offered in the Department of Botany and also in the School of Political Science. This apparently was the first formal instruction in forestry to be given in the United States (Dana, p. 253). The course was discontinued at the end of four years. Spalding, however, maintained a very active interest in the subject and had an important part in establishing the Department of Forestry in 1903. As has been pointed out by Dean Dana, it is a striking evidence of the breadth and vision of Professor Spalding that he should have foreseen the necessity of meeting future problems in forestry at a time when forestry resources were regarded as “inexhaustible.”

In 1901, Charles Albert Davis (Bowdoin ‘86, Ph.D. Michigan ‘05) was appointed Instructor in Forestry. He had been Professor of Natural Science at Alma College. He registered for graduate study in botany at the University and received the doctorate in 1905. Davis was much interested in the forestry of the state and published a number of articles. He was Curator of the Herbarium from 1905 to 1908 and then became the peat expert of the United States Bureau of Mines.

After the resignation of Mrs. Stowell, Frederick Charles Newcombe (‘90, Ph.D. Leipzig ‘93) became Instructor in Botany (1890). He was made Acting Assistant Professor and had charge of the department during Spalding’s absence at Leipzig, where he, like Newcombe, received the doctorate under Pfeffer, in 1894. Newcombe became Assistant Professor in 1895 and was appointed Professor of Botany in 1905. He was principally interested in plant physiology, and consequently this subject received greater emphasis, resulting in the offering of three courses and opportunities for investigation by advanced students.  Pharmaceutical botany was continued by Julius O. Schlotterbeck, who was appointed Instructor in Pharmacognosy and Botany in 1893 and continued to teach the course until his death in 1917, when he was Dean of the School of Pharmacy and Professor of Pharmacognosy and Botany.

During the latter part of this period Professor Spalding’s interests turned more to the field of plant ecology, resulting in the offering of several courses in this subject. In 1899, he initiated a course entitled Teachers’ Conference and Field Club, planned to give training in collecting and preparation of material and in the development of courses in high-school botany. This is still continued as the teachers’ course in botany.

Apparently Professor Newcombe started the botanical journal club in 1894. Under Botany 11, Current Literature of Botany, in the 1895-96 Calendar it is stated that this course “constitutes a journal club, meeting once a week, in which important current papers on botany are reviewed and discussed by instructors and advanced students. All students are admitted to the meetings, but only advanced students may elect the course.” This was the first course of the kind on the campus. It has continued to be an important factor in the training of advanced students in the Department of Botany.

The increase in the number of students and the multiplication of courses necessitated additions to the botanical staff. Among the six instructors who served for some time in the period 1892-1906 were the following: James Barkley Pollock (Wisconsin ‘93, Sc.D. Michigan ‘97), 1897-1932; Julia W. Snow (Cornell ‘88, Ph.D. Zurich ‘93), 1898-1900; and George P. Burns (Ohio Wesleyan ‘98, Ph.D. Munich ‘00), 1902-12.

Before 1891, the Department of Botany occupied two rooms of about one thousand square feet each in Mason Hall (Newcombe, p. 478). The one on the fourth floor was used as a laboratory, and the other, on the second, contained the collection of plants. The needs of the department so increased that these quarters were very inadequate, and in 1891 the department moved to the South Wing of University Hall, where it occupied all four rooms of the fourth floor. In addition, the ends of the corridors were partitioned off for offices and storerooms. Later, three additional rooms on the ground floor were added. The facilities for studying living plants were limited, since plants could be grown only in the windows. This situation was remedied in 1903 to some extent, by the renting of a small space in Cousins and Hall’s greenhouse on South University Avenue.

A number of the students of this period became prominent in botany or closely allied subjects — twenty-six were listed by Newcombe in 1903 (Mich. Alum., 9: 445). Among the students who obtained the early part of their botanical training at the University of Michigan were George B. Sudworth (‘85), Dendrologist, United States Department of Agriculture; Filibert Roth (‘90), Professor of Forestry, University of Michigan; Burton E. Livingston (‘98, Ph.D. Chicago ‘01), Professor of Plant Physiology, Johns Hopkins University; Howard S. Reed (‘03, Ph.D. Missouri ‘07), Professor of Plant Physiology, University of California Citrus Experiment Station. According to available records, twenty students specializing in botany took master’s degrees during this period. Among these were Charles O. Townsend (‘88, Ph.D. Leipzig ‘97), Pathologist, United States Department of Agriculture; and John H. Schaffner (Baker ‘93, M.S. Michigan ‘94), Professor of Botany, Ohio State University.

The doctoral dissertation of Abram Sager Hall (‘76, Ph.D. ‘78) was concerned with a study of a group of the Ascomycetes. This was the first doctorate in botany and the third degree of doctor of philosophy to be granted by examination from the University, the two previous ones having been given in 1876. Abram Sager Hall retired from the position of Professor of Natural Science, Washington College, Maryland, in 1927 and now lives at Saline, Michigan. Seven other students received doctorates in botany during this period. These and their later positions are as follows: Douglas Houghton Campbell (Ph.M. ‘82, Ph.D. ‘86), Professor of Botany, Leland Stanford Junior University; Erwin F. Smith, Pathologist, United States Department of Agriculture; James B. Pollock, Professor of Botany, University of Michigan; Joseph W. T. Duvel (Ohio State ‘97, Sc.D. Michigan ‘02), Crop Technologist, United States Department of Agriculture; Raymond H. Pond (Kansas Agricultural College ‘98, Ph.D. Michigan ‘02), Professor of Plant Physiology and Pathology, Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College; Lewis R. Jones (‘89, Ph.D. ‘04), Professor of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin; and Edgar N. Transeau (Franklin and Marshall ‘97, Ph.D. Michigan ‘04), Professor of Botany, Ohio State University. Two factors aided in the development of graduate instruction: graduate students were employed to assist in the teaching, these numbering three in 1904-5; and in 1898, Dexter M. Ferry gave $500 for a botanical fellowship.

There was a marked increase in the amount of botanical research and publication during this period. During the earlier years Mrs. Stowell published a number of papers concerning plant morphology, with emphasis upon microscopical structures. She was coauthor, with her husband, Charles H. Stowell, of a book entitled Microscopical Diagnosis (1882). She was also one of the editors of the journal, The Microscope. The master’s thesis of Douglas Houghton Campbell in 1882 was on the microscopical structure of vegetable textile fibers.

As already mentioned, Volney M. Spalding published a number of papers concerning various aspects of forestry. He made a study of forestry conditions in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula and made recommendations in regard to a forestry program. In 1899 his study of white pine was published by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The cryptogams received considerable attention. L. N. Johnson, during the few years he was an instructor, made an excellent start on a study of the cryptogamic flora of Michigan. He published several papers on desmids. He added many collections of fungi to the herbarium and sent specimens to Ellis and Peck, who described a number of species from them. His early death in 1897 brought to an end a very promising botanical career. A number of the graduate students studied problems in plant pathology. Erwin F. Smith, whose dissertation for the doctor of philosophy degree was “Experiments with Fertilizers for the Prevention and Cure of Peach Yellows,” became a plant pathologist of world renown. His studies of the bacterial diseases of plants are classic. Lewis R. Jones, whose dissertation for the doctor of philosophy degree was “Cytolytic Enzyme Produced by Bacillus carotovorus and Certain Other Soft-rot Bacteria,” became not only a leading investigator but also an outstanding teacher in the field of plant pathology. Many of the plant pathologists of today were his students.

Miss Julia Snow, during the few years when she was an instructor, took part in a biological survey of Lake Erie, which was under the direction of Professor Reighard of the Department of Zoology. She studied and reported on the plankton algae and published several other papers concerning algae. Adrian J. Pieters (‘94, Ph.D. ‘15) studied the flowering plants. There was a very active interest during the latter part of this period in aquatic biology.

Douglas Houghton Campbell’s doctoral dissertation in 1889 was entitled, “Development of the Ostrich Fern (Onoclea Struthiopteris).” Professor Campbell is noted for his studies in the comparative morphology of plants.

As a result of the specialization of Frederick C. Newcombe and Volney M. Spalding under Pfeffer at Leipzig, investigation in plant physiology was stimulated at the University of Michigan. Professor Newcombe published twenty-three papers during this period based on his physiological studies, mostly concerning the sensitive reactions of plants. The doctoral dissertation of J. B. Pollock in 1895 was entitled, “Mechanism of Root Curvature.”

During the last part of his career at the University Professor Spalding published a number of papers concerning plant ecology. After his resignation in 1904 he continued ecological studies at the Desert Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution in Arizona, until ill health forced him to retire to a sanatorium, where he died in 1918. George P. Burns also published a number of papers on this aspect of botany.

In 1892 Volney M. Spalding, William H. Howell, Jacob E. Reighard, and Joseph B. Steere circularized the biologists of the state concerning the desirability of a state society of naturalists. In June, 1894, Newcombe headed a committee that called a meeting in Ann Arbor in the Department of Botany, and at this meeting W. J. Beal of Michigan Agricultural College was elected president and F. C. Newcombe, secretary. The Michigan Academy of Science was organized and its first meeting was held at Lansing in December, 1894. Bryant Walker was elected president; Newcombe was elected vice-president for the section on botany.

The period from 1905 to 1923. — In May, 1905, a little less than a year after Spalding’s resignation, Newcombe was promoted to a full professorship of botany and was appointed Director of the Botanical Laboratory. He directed the activities of the Department of Botany until his retirement in 1923. The staff grew from five faculty members and three assistants in 1904-5 to ten faculty members and six assistants in 1922-23. James B. Pollock, who had come to the University as Instructor in 1897, attained an associate professorship in 1914. George P. Burns, who was Instructor, became Assistant Professor in 1906 and Junior Professor in 1910. He resigned in 1912 to become Professor of Botany at the University of Vermont. Calvin H. Kauffman (Harvard ‘96, Ph.D. Michigan ‘07), previously Instructor in Botany, was successively promoted and was appointed to a full professorship in 1923. As already mentioned, Julius O. Schlotterbeck (‘91, ‘87p, Ph.D. Bern ‘96) continued to give instruction in pharmacognosy and in botany.

In 1908 Henri T. A. de L. Hus (California ‘97, Ph.D. Washington Univ. [St. Louis] ‘08) was appointed Instructor in Botany. He became Assistant Professor in 1912, and his services terminated in 1917. Henry A. Gleason (Illinois ‘01, Ph.D. Columbia ‘06) was appointed Assistant Professor in 1910. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1916 and resigned in 1919 to go to the New York Botanical Garden. In 1913 Walter W. Tupper (Harvard ‘10, Sc.D. ibid. ‘18) was appointed Instructor in Botany. He became Assistant Professor in 1920. John H. Ehlers (‘99, Ph.D. ‘14) became an Instructor in 1915 and Assistant Professor in 1920.

In 1915, Harley H. Bartlett (Harvard ‘08) was appointed Acting Assistant Professor during the absence of Dr. Hus on leave. He became Assistant Professor in 1916 and was appointed to a full professorship in 1921. Bradley M. Davis (Stanford ‘92, Harvard ‘93, Ph.D. ibid. ‘95) was appointed Professor in 1919; thus, for the first time, there were two full professorships in the Department of Botany. Carl D. La Rue (‘14, Ph.D. ‘21) and Felix G. Gustafson (Wisconsin ‘15, Ph.D. Harvard ‘21) became instructors in botany in 1920.

In 1905 the Department of Botany still occupied the fourth floor and a part of the first floor in the South Wing. These quarters had long been inadequate. In 1913 a fire occurred that destroyed part of the fourth floor and caused damage to the remainder. Insurance made it possible to replace most of the losses except the collections destroyed in the herbarium. A number of years’ agitation for better facilities finally resulted in an appropriation for the Natural Science Building, which was occupied in 1915. The Department of Botany was assigned its present quarters on four floors in the southeastern section. It was provided several laboratories for simultaneous sections of elementary botany, and special laboratories for anatomy, cytology, cryptogamic botany, and physiology, the last with a greenhouse attached. The phanerogamic herbarium occupied a double room on the third floor, and the cryptogamic herbarium similar quarters on the fourth. Each staff member had an office and a laboratory for his researches, and each graduate student had a room to himself.

In 1906 the Botanical Gardens and Arboretum were established through the gift of a large tract of land lying between Geddes Avenue and the Huron (see Part III: Botanical Gardens). George P. Burns was appointed Director. Previously a small garden had been maintained in the southeastern corner of the campus for class use and other purposes (News-Letter, 8: 57). Henry A. Gleason became Director in 1915, and Harley H. Bartlett in 1919.

During this period there was increased interest in the development of the herbarium. In 1912 C. H. Kauffman was made Curator of the Cryptogamic Herbarium and H. A. Gleason Curator of the Phanerogamic Herbarium. J. H. Ehlers became Curator of the latter in 1916. In 1921, C. H. Kauffman was placed in charge of the herbarium as director.

For the most part, the fields of instruction developed during the previous period were maintained and expanded. Additional courses were developed: Forest Pathology, Forest Botany, Agrostology, Microbiology, Genetics, Cytology, and Paleobotany. The increase in the staff also resulted in a corresponding increase in the number of courses offering advanced instruction and investigation in specialized fields. A series of five numbers entitled “Field Studies in Botany” was published in 1906 as a guide for teachers.

Financial support for advanced students was increased through the gift of funds for fellowships. The Dexter M. Ferry fellowship was continued until 1909. In 1903, Joseph B. Whittier of Saginaw gave $4,000, the income to be used for the Angeline Bradford Whittier fellowship, in honor of his mother. In 1910 the University received a bequest from Emma J. Cole, of Grand Rapids, which finally amounted to $21,000. It was specified that the income should be used for graduate fellowships in botany. Miss Cole was an enthusiastic student of the botany of the Grand Rapids area and a teacher in the Grand Rapids High School, and she had a deep interest in the welfare of students. Funds were also received from the United States Rubber Company to support the work of three students in genetical and biochemical studies of rubber-producing plants. Sixty-six students specializing in botany obtained master’s degrees, and thirty-one received degrees of doctor of science or doctor of philosophy.

This was a period of productive research by members of the staff and by advanced students. Newcombe continued his studies of sensitive reactions of plants. During the early part of this period a majority of the graduate students conducted researches in various phases of physiology. Kauffman’s doctoral study concerning physiological factors influencing reproduction in Saprolegnia initiated a series of investigations concerning reproduction of fungi by graduate students under his direction. Kauffman published a series of papers concerning the cryptogamic flora of Michigan and started his studies of the fungi of the western United States. His monograph of the Agaricaceae of Michigan is a major contribution to the knowledge of the fungi of eastern North America. Burns and Gleason published a series of ecological studies specially concerning the Ann Arbor and Douglas Lake areas. There was a decided increase in studies in the field of genetics by Bartlett and his students. Gleason engaged in a monographic study of the Vernonieae. The demands of the automobile industry for increased rubber resulted in investigations for the United States Rubber Company by Bartlett and La Rue concerning the culture of the rubber plant in the East Indies.

The period from 1923-1940. — Following the retirement of Newcombe in 1923, Harley Harris Bartlett became Chairman of the Department of Botany. The staff also included Professors Davis and Kauffman, Associate Professor Pollock, Assistant Professors Tupper and Ehlers, and four instructors. Kauffman was retired on account of ill health in 1930, and he died in 1931. Pollock was promoted to a full professorship in 1925. He reached the retirement age in 1932, and his death was in 1934. Tupper resigned in 1936 on account of ill health and died in 1939. Ehlers became Associate Professor in 1933 and reached the retirement age in 1939. Carl D. La Rue and Felix G. Gustafson became associate professors in 1934.

Lewis E. Wehmeyer (‘21f, Ph.D. ‘25) was appointed Instructor in Botany in 1928. He became Associate Professor in 1937. Chester A. Arnold (Cornell ‘24, Ph.D. ibid. ‘29), appointed Instructor in Botany in 1928, was promoted to an assistant professorship in 1935. He has also held the position of Curator of Fossil Plants in the Museum of Paleontology since 1931. In 1930, Edwin B. Mains (‘13, Ph.D. ‘16) was added to the staff as Professor of Botany. He was also appointed Director of the University Herbarium. William Randolph Taylor (Pennsylvania ‘16, Ph.D. ibid. ‘20) was appointed Professor of Botany in 1930 and Curator of Algae in the University Herbarium. Kenneth L. Jones (Syracuse ‘28, Ph.D. Michigan ‘33) became Instructor in 1930 and Assistant Professor in 1937. William C. Steere (‘29, Ph.D. ‘32) became Instructor in 1931 and Assistant Professor in 1936. Also in 1936 Frederick K. Sparrow (‘25, Ph.D. ‘29) came to the department as Assistant Professor and Elzada U. Clover (Nebraska State Teachers College ‘30, Ph.D. Michigan ‘35) was appointed Instructor in Botany and Assistant Curator in the Botanical Gardens.

Work in the fields of instruction which had been developed during the previous periods was continued and expanded. The rapid growth of the department has made the present quarters in the Natural Science Building again inadequate. In 1928, when the new Museums Building was completed, the Herbarium was moved to the fourth floor of the research wing.

In 1928, the University received a bequest of more than $50,500 from the estate of Frederick C. Newcombe, the income to be used for fellowships in plant physiology to be known as the F. C. and Susan Eastman Newcombe fellowships. This fund has provided financial aid for fifteen advanced students throughout their graduate study. Four students were supported by the Ferry fellowship, and to date seventeen have had financial aid from the Whittier and thirty from the Cole fellowships. During this period 159 students specializing in botany received master’s degrees, and fifty-nine the degree of doctor of science or of doctor of philosophy. As far as it has been possible to determine, 245 master’s degrees, in all, have been given in botany, and ninety-eight doctor’s degrees.

The researches of members of the staff and of advanced students have shown a steady increase. With the development of better transportation facilities, botanical exploration has been greatly broadened geographically. Bartlett has continued his studies in Eastern Asia and in 1935 was Exchange Professor at the University of the Philippines. Pollock was exchange professor at the University of Hawaii from 1922 to 1924. In 1927 Carl D. La Rue took part in the Ford expedition to the Amazon. Bartlett, Steere, and Mains, with members of the staffs of the Museums, have taken part in a biological survey of the Mayan area of Central America in co-operation with the Carnegie Institution of Washington. W. C. Steere was exchange professor at the University of Puerto Rico in 1939-40 and made an intensive study of the bryophyte flora while there. Bartlett and several graduate students have spent several seasons in northern Mexico. Taylor has taken part in several Hancock marine expeditions to the Galapagos Islands, to the Pacific coasts of Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico, and to the southern Caribbean Sea.

Emphasis on investigations of the botany of Michigan has been continued. Studies have also been made throughout the United States, specially in the West, by Professors Kauffman, Wehmeyer, Baxter, Dr. Clover, and graduate students. Wehmeyer has given considerable attention to the fungi of Nova Scotia, and Baxter has spent a number of summers in exploration in Alaska.

The taxonomy of flowering plants has occupied the attention of a number of the staff and students, Bartlett specializing upon the Palmae and Clover on the Cactaceae. Arnold has published a series of papers on fossil plants.

Cryptogamic botany has continued to be a major field of interest. Kauffman monographed a number of genera of the Agaricaceae, and Wehmeyer the genus Diaporthe. Baxter has specialized on Poria, Mains on the Uredinales and Cordyceps, and Sparrow on the Chytridiales. Jones has been engaged in investigations in the genus Actinomyces. Steere has published a series of papers on the bryophytes of North America, including several genera for Grout’s Moss Flora. Pollock made a study of the coralline algae and coral reefs of the Hawaiian Islands. Taylor has written a number of papers on the marine algae of North and South America and has prepared a manual of the group for the northeastern coast of North America. Investigations in plant pathology have been conducted by Mains on physiologic specialization in fungi and the inheritance of disease resistance and by Baxter on the action of wood-rotting fungi.

Davis and Bartlett have studied the genetics of Oenothera, and Davis has investigated the cytological mechanism. In plant physiology, Gustafson has carried out a series of studies concerning the factors influencing the development of fruits, and La Rue has investigated the regeneration of plant tissues. In 1923, a botanical seminar was initiated under the direction of Professor Davis for the purpose of reviewing the researches of members of the staff and graduate students.

Edwin B. Mains


Bartlett, Harley H.”James Barkley Pollock.”Mich. Alum., 41 (1934): 27-28.

Bartlett, Harley H.”Asa Gray’s Nonresident Professorship.”Mich. Alum. Quart. Rev., 47 (1941): 215-16.

Calendar, Univ. Mich., 1871-1914.

Catalogue …, Univ. Mich., 1846-71, 1914-23.

Catalogue and Register, Univ. Mich., 1923-27.

Dana, Samuel T.”Evolution of Forestry at the University.”Mich. Alum., 40 (1934): 253-55.

General Register Issue, Univ. Mich., 1927-40.

Harrington, Mark W.A Memorial Address on the Life and Services of Alexander Winchell. Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich., 1891.

Harrington, Mark W.”The Tropical Ferns Collected by Professor Steere in the Years 1870-75.”’Journ. Linnean Soc. London, bot. ser., 16 (1878): 25-37.

Hinsdale, Burke A.History of the University of Michigan. Ed. by Isaac N. Demmon. Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich., 1906.

Kauffman, Calvin H.”The Agaricaceae of Michigan.”Publ. Mich. Geol. and Biol. Surv., Publ. 26, biol. ser., 5 (1918): 1-924, i-x, I-CLXXII. 2 vols.

Mains, Edwin B.”Calvin Henry Kauffman.”Phytopathology, 4 (1932): 271-75; Mycologia, 24 (1932): 265-67.

Newcombe, Frederick C.”A Quarter Century of Botany at Michigan.”Mich. Alum., 21 (1915): 477-80.

[News notes.]Mich. Alum., 6 (1900): 176; 9 (1903): 445; 38 (1932): 389.

Pollock, James B., , and Harley H. Bartlett. “Frederick Charles Newcombe.”Amer. Journ. Bot., 15 (1928): 1-5.

President’s Report, Univ. Mich., 1853-1909, 1920-40.

Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1864-1940. (R.P.)

Reed, Howard S.”Volney Morgan Spalding.”Plant World, 22 (1919): 14-18.

Robbins, Frank E.”Asa Gray’s Visit to Ann Arbor.”Mich. Alum., 36 (1930): 483-84.

University of Michigan News-Letter (title varies), 1898-1911. (News-Letter.)

University of Michigan Regents’ Proceedings …, 1837-1864. Ed. by Isaac N. Demmon. Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich., 1915. (R.P., 1837-64.)

The University Record, Univ. Mich., 1891-95.

Winchell, Alexander. MS, “Biographical Sketch of Alexander Winchell.”In Alexander Winchell Papers. Mich. Hist. Coll., Univ. Mich. Autobiographical sketch; 117 pp.

Winchell, Alexander. MS, “Biographical Sketch of Alexander Winchell.”In Alexander Winchell Papers. Mich. Hist. Coll., Univ. Mich. Autobiographical sketch; 16 pp.

Winchell, Alexander. “Catalogue of Plants Growing Without Cultivation in the Vicinity of Amenia Seminary.”Rept. N. Y. Regents, 1851, pp. 256-79.

Winchell, Alexander. MS, “Notebook of Plants Collected in the Vicinity of the Mesopotamia Female Seminary, Eutaw, Ala.”In Alexander Winchell Papers. Mich. Hist. Coll., Univ. Mich. (“Notebook.”)

Winchell, Alexander. Report, Historical and Statistical, on the Collections in Geology, Zoology and Botany, in the Museum of the University of Michigan, … 1863. Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich., 1864. See also appendixes to President’s Report, 1864-73.

The University of Michigan, An Encyclopedic Survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor, Volume II, Part III pp. 493


The imminent involvement of the United States in World War II demanded special duties for students and faculties. Carl LaRue was chosen by the USDA to procure fresh bud-wood of the Brazilian rubber tree from Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Mexico. He and Harley Bartlett, two decades earlier, had pioneered in the cloning of selected high-yielding rubber trees in Sumatra.

Bartlett went to the Panama Canal Zone in the summer of 1940 as botanist with the Gorgas Memorial Institute to attempt to discover the causes of increase in malarial-bearing mosquitoes. On his return to the States he was directly drafted to supervise the propagation of “the best Hevea (rubber) strains (in the Orient) and bring them to tropical America.” In the summer of 1941 he succeeded in establishing plantations of choice Hevea clones in Haiti.

In September 1942, Bartlett began a “rubber-land-location assignment” in Mexico and South America which did not terminate until 1944. He supervised the introduction of plantings of the “rubber-bush,” guayule, and the Russian dandelion, kok-saghz. This assignment was as much a diplomatic mission as a plant introduction project. It was his opinion in 1944 that “the future of guayule rubber appears very bright at this stage, at least as a hemisphere project, and the Congressional appropriations underwriting further development in many directions — one of which is improving methods for collecting the minute seeds — should greatly advance the culture of the plant in the Americas.” In 1979 guayule cultivation again became news as the U.S. Congress legislated and funded for it an immense program in southwestern U.S. desert lands.

Frederick Kroeber Sparrow Jr., mycologist, showed ecumenical spirit in accepting an appointment with the Michigan State Experiment Station, growing milkweed for its floss, to be used in Army Air Corps uniforms. William Campbell Steere, bryologist, participated in the U.S. Cinchona Mission to Ecuador to procure quinine bark to compensate for the cut-off of supplies from the South Pacific. The mission was highly successful. William Randolph Taylor, now an internationally renowned expert on marine algae, was Senior Biologist in the Oceanographic Section of the Bikini Expedition, Crossroads, which witnessed mankind’s first open, scientific demonstration of the power released in atomic fission.

During the years of the war the staff was more than adequate to teach the reduced civilian student population. The course for men in military service was accelerated. All staff members taught sections in the elementary course. The Veterans’ “Bulge,” following the cessation of the war, would have created great difficulties for all laboratory sciences had not the veterans been so eager for the opportunity of an education.

Professor Bartlett resigned as Chairman in 1947 having completed twenty-four years at that assignment. He retained directorship of the Botanical Gardens at its site near Iroquois Street off Stadium Boulevard, a research facility which he had virtually established in 1919. Professor William Campbell Steere was chosen as Bartlett’s successor. In the regrettably short time he was in office (1947-50) he created an efficient operation within the botanical community of the University. Steere recruited new staff members in areas in which we were heretofore not represented: Pierre Dansereau, ecology, Alfred S. Sussman, physiological mycology, Fergus S. H. Macdowell, photobiology, and Robert J. Lowry, cytology, later electron microscopy, and Erich E. Steiner, an Oenothera geneticist.

Upon Steere’s sudden decision to accept a professorship at Stanford University where he would be free of administrative duties, Kenneth L. Jones was appointed chairman for a three-year term.

W. Herbert Wagner, Jr., in systematics and morphology, developed courses in systematics of flowering plants, woody plants, and ferns. Elzada U. Clover who had been teaching taxonomy of flowering plants during Bartlett’s numerous absences to faraway places, chose to shift her teaching efforts to an applied botany course at the Botanical Gardens.

Under the aegis of the Phoenix Project, a World War II memorial to University of Michigan veterans, the department received a munificent grant from the Dearborn Motors and Tractor Division of the Ford Motor Company to create the Plant Nutrition Laboratory in a renovated unit of the University Hospital on Catherine Street with fundamental research on soil-plant relationships. A. Geoffrey Norman was appointed Director, with George G. Laties as a full-time researcher. When Bartlett retired as Director of the University Botanical Gardens he was succeeded by Norman who recruited Peter Hypio, horticulture and taxonomy, and Peter Kaufman, physiology and development of vascular plants.

Primarily because of the increasing value of the land as real estate, the University deemed it expedient to disband the Iroquois Street area as a site for the Gardens. Regent Matthaei donated an extensive rural holding on Dixboro Road for relocation of the Gardens and, with the National Science Foundation, financed the buildings.

At about the same time the University Herbarium moved into new quarters in the North University Building. The National Science Foundation made possible the purchase of a great increase in herbarium cases. Also it funded complete renovation of all of the teaching laboratories in the Natural Science Building and of many of the private office/laboratories. It was a major decision on the part of the central administration of the University to approve the expansion and resettlement of the Herbarium and the Gardens. Dean Charles E. Odegaard was responsible for a change in status of Museums (and Herbarium) Curators. All were to have faculty appointments and classroom teaching responsibilities. This helped in the recruitment of new personnel: Edward G. Voss who had devoted himself to a special project on Michigan flora, became Assistant Professor of Botany in 1960 and took over the Aquatic Flowering Plants course developed by Sparrow and (in the Summer Session) the floristic taxonomy offerings at the Biological Station at Douglas Lake.

Titular appointments in Botany were now held by some faculty of the School of Natural Resources, their courses being cross-listed as part of our graduate degree programs. To stimulate research the Regents created divisions within the University which cut across departments and colleges. The Division of Biology, which included nonclinical units in the Medical School, School of Public Health, Natural Resources, Museums, and College of LS&A, was for several years a very lively affair, perhaps because of the deft chairmanship of Dean Samuel Trask Dana of the School of Natural Resources. Botanists profited as the Regents were pressured to purchase Mud Lake Bog, near Whitmore Lake. A program of distinguished visiting lecturers was initiated.

Jones retired as Chairman, after thirteen years, in 1963. He was replaced by Sussman (who became Associate Dean of LS&A in 1968 and advanced to Dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies in 1974). Norman became Vice-President for Research in the University (1964-72). Taylor became our only recipient of the Russel Lectureship “for Distinguished Achievement in Research” (1964). Steiner succeeded Sussman as Chairman of Botany (1968-71), and was followed by Beck (1971-76), whose brilliant studies on Devonian fossils are widely recognized.

The University of Michigan, An Encyclopedic Survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor, Volume VI pp. 131-134.