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Mycology at the New York Botanical Garden

A Short Description of the Collections of the New York Botanical Garden Herbarium (NY): Fungi

Kansas State University Mycological collections

ELAM BARTHOLOMEW

(1852-1934)

Elam Bartholomew was born on June 9, 1852, at Strasburg, Pennsylvania to George E. Bartholomew, a millright, and Fanny Bowman.  He was the middle child in a family of nine.  When Elam was 12, he and his family moved from a farm near Granville, Ohio, to a farm in Farmington, Illinois. In March 1874, when Elam was 21, he secured a homestead site in Rooks County, Kansas, and began farming. On June 14 1876, Elam was married to Rachel Montgomery, and together they had five children- four boys and one girl.

     Throughout his lifetime, Elam Bartholomew was a farmer, horticulturist, and remained active in Kansas politics, local government, and the church. He was also an avid "botanizer" and was fascinated especially with the unique flora of Kansas.  Very soon after getting settled in Kansas, Elam spent significant time collecting 'botanical specimens' and wandering around the fields admiring the variety of organisms.  He often took specimens home so that he could identify them from either books on hand or by asking neighbours and visitors whether they could be of any help.

     Through a deep friendship with Professor E. N. Plank, Elam's passion for mycology developed. Very quickly, he began his own collection of fungi , and by early 1890, Elam's work in botany was well enough developed that he felt justified in calling his specimen collection an herbarium.  During the next decade, Elam spent many hours mounting specimens for the Stockton Academy Herbarium and his own private herbarium. As his knowledge about the fungal organisms became more apparent, Elam began receiving requests for his specimens from other members of the scientific community. Furthermore, he soon became a prominent speaker on various aspects of fungal pathogens for audiences such as the church or the Stockton Academy.  As the years passed, his dedication and passion for mycology became truly evident.

    In 1911, Elam launched into the specialization of rusts.  In 1923, he terminated publication and distribution of specimens of North American Uredinales (NAU). On April 20, 1927, at the age of 77, Elam received news of the highest  possible honor of his professionel career. He was awarded the honorary Degree of Doctor of Science at the Annual Commencement on June 2nd of that same year. Despite his growing age, Elam continued to dedicate much of his time to filling orders for various educational institutions that had requested specimen loans. At the age of 82, Elam Bartholomew died in his home, in Hays, Kansas.

An excerpt of the book Pioneer Naturalist on the Plains: The Diary of Elam Bartholomew 1871-1934, written by his grandson, David Bartholomew, follows:

"...Early on, Elam grasped the significance of fungi as the cause of many plant diseases, and he set about collecting and correctly identifying those that are parasitic on grasses and other plants.  It was not long before he clearly knew more about fungi, particularly the plant-parasitic fungi, than anyone else did for this part of the world.
    Any mycological herbarium or laboratory with pretensions to the ablity to identify fungi and sort out the correct names for them must either possess or have access to Elam's work.  His work retains its utility in large part because of its thoroughness and accuracy.  From our time, we biologists look back at him in admiration..." -Theodore M. Barkley, professor and curator, Herbarium, KSU, Manhattan.

Bartholomew's herbarium was donated to Fort Stockton State University, and the university herbarium is named in his honor.  The Bartholomew type specimens have been imaged, and are searchable on line.  The herbarium website also contains a biography of Bartholomew, along with pictures of his original herbarium building.


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