Archives and Manuscript Collections
Records of the Herbarium (RG4)
BASSETT MAGUIRE RECORDS (1930-1991)
ca. 65 linear feet
Bassett Maguire was born on August 4, 1904 in Alabama City (Gadsden) Alabama,
the son of Charles Thomas and Rose Bassett Maguire. He went to high school
in Savannah, Georgia and in the summers of 1921 to1923 was employed in
the merchant marines as a sailor, able-bodied seaman and as quartermaster.
In 1923 he enrolled in the University of Georgia and received a B.S. degree
in three years, with first honors in botany and zoology. In 1925, with
a generous gift from his Uncle Augustus Bassett, Bassett Maguire participated
in the field program at the University of Pittsburgh in tropical ecology
at Kartabo, British Guiana. Years later, in 1944, Maguire designated Augustus
Falls for an unnamed cascade on Tafelberg, Surinam in honor of his uncle.
In 1927, Basssett Maguire was appointed head of the Science Department
at the high school he attended in Georgia. Aware of the need for graduate
study he obtained a teaching assistantship in Botany at Cornell University
in 1927. By 1931 he had completed his course requirements but not his thesis
when he was offered a position as Assistant Professor of Botany at Utah
State Agricultural College in Logan,Utah. While in Utah he developed the
Intermountain Herbarium and served as its principal collector and curator
In January 1943, Bassett Maguire visited the New York Botanical Garden,
where he was to work on the flora of Utah. By July he was listed as "curator"
and subsequently served the New York Botanical Garden in many roles as
Curator (1943-1958); Head Curator (1958-1961); Nathanial Lord Britton Distinquished
Senior Curator (1961-1971); Assistant Director (1968-1969); Director of
Botany (1969-1971, 1974-1975); Senior Scientist (1972-1974); and Senior
Scientist Emeritus from 1975 until his death in 1991.
While at the Garden, his research began to shift from North America
to tropical America. In 1944 he arranged an expedition to the Kaieteur
escarpment to continue the Garden's work in the Guayana Highlands. Later
that same year he proceeded with an exploration of Tafelberg in central
Surinam. He prepared maps, wrote descriptions of Tafelberg and of his explorations,
and with collaborators, published six papers on describing many plants
new to science.
Dr. Maguire continued to lead expeditions to South America, particularly
the Amazonas territory of Venezuela and what was then British Guiana. In
1948, accompanied by Louis Politi from the Garden's horticultural staff
and his son Bassett Maguire, Jr., Dr Maguire led a major expedition to
the summit of Cerro Sipapo via Rio Cuao and the upper Orinoco. Richard
Cowan and John Wurdack, graduate students who later became staff members
of the New York Botanical Garden, were recruited to go with Dr. Maguire
on a trip to Venezuela in 1950 and accompanied him on many expeditions
Dr. Maguire's first marriage ended in divorce and in 1951 he married
Celia Kramer. Celia Maguire accompanied her husband and assisted on many
trips. In 1953, the Maguires and John Wurdack were finishing up the exploration
of the Amazonas, Venezuela but extended their trip to retrace the travels
of the pioneer Amazonian explorer, Richard Spruce. Travelling up the Yatua
to Laja Catipan, on clear day, they saw the expanse of Cerro Neblina (then
unknown and unnamed). Upon their return to Caracas, the Maguires reported
their findings to the United States Ambassador. The discovery of a new
mountain mass was a crowning achievement in a career of exploration. Cerro
Neblina's location on the Venezuelan-Brazilian border had international
implications and a boundary commission was created to determine the division
between the two countries.
Dr Maguire organized and participated in 3 subsequent trips to Neblina,
one of the most botanically rich table mountains of Guayana. For his discovery,
he was awarded the David Livingstone Centenary Medal by the American Geographical
Society in 1965.
Throughout the 1960's, Dr. Maguire continued his explorations of South
America collecting with Julian Steyermark on the sandstone escarpment and
northern slopes of the upper Cuyuni, Estado Bolivar, Venezuela and later
to British Guiana collecting in the southern Pakaraima Mts. Also in 1962,
the Maguires collected in the upper Rio Cuyuni and rios Uiri and Chicanan,
Venezuela. Between 1966 and 1969, the Maguires traveled to Belize, Costa
Rica, Panama, Mexico, Honduras, Peru, Colombia and Puerto Rico.
Back at the Garden, Dr. Maguire was largely responsible for securing
many National Science Foundation Grants (NSF) facilities grants, to acquire
new herbarium cases and renovate existing herbarium space. He was also
involved in many professional scientific societies and organizations. He
was the President and a founder of the Association of Tropical Biology
(ATB), participated as a founder and councilor of the Organization for
Tropical Studies (OTS), and served as President of the Torrey Botanical
Club. He developed fruitful collaborations with other botanical gardens
and conducted herbarium studies in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden,
Finland and the USSR.
In 1975 Bassett Maguire turned over his administrative duties at the
Garden and officially retired, becoming Senior Scientist Emeritus. He continued
his primary research on the floristics of the Guayana Highlands and monographic
studies of Clusia and the Dipterocarpaceae, Pakaraimeae.
Dr. Maguire was a pioneer explorer and an inspiring teacher to a generation
of botanists. He died on February 6, 1991 at the age of 86.
SCOPE AND CONTENT
The Bassett Maguire collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts
and typescripts, organizational records, personal papers, and research
records that include field notebooks, photographs, negatives, Kodachrome
slides, movie film and video, artwork, micrographics, reprints, clippings,
scrapbooks and artifacts. The collection covers Dr. Maguire's career as
Curator of the Intermountain Herbarium in Logan Utah throughout his career
at the New York Botanical Garden. Also included are correspondence and
organizational records of his affiliations with organizations such as the
Association of Tropical Biology and the Organization for Flora Neotropica.
The collection is currently being arranged and described by Dr. Maguire's
wife Celia Maguire with the assistance of Susan Fraser, NYBG Archivist.
Series 1: Intermountain Region. 1930-1943
Series 2: New York Botanical Garden. 1944-1991
Series 3: Correspondence – NYBG Scientific. 1944-1991.
Series 4: Field Work. 1944-1987
Series 5: Research. 1944-1990
Series 6: Affiliations.
Series 7: Publications.
Series 8: Artwork.
Series 9: Artifacts.
Series 10: Photographic materials.
Series 11: Personal. 1930 – 1991.
This guide is currently in progress.
For more information and a complete description contact:
Susan Fraser, NYBG
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, New York 10458-5126
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