Archives and Manuscript Collections
HERMAN F. BECKER PAPERS (1931-1983)
8.9 linear inches (2 boxes)
F. Becker (1907-1985) was a renowned paleobotanist whose specialty was
the Tertiary paleobotany of southwest Montana. He was employed by The New
York Botanical Garden from 1958 to 1974 and served as Curator of Paleobotany
Born in Dusseldorf, Germany, Dr. Becker studied horticulture at the
Berlin Botanical Gardens and emigrated to the United States in 1930. He
was initially employed as a horticultural assistant and eventually became
Superintendent of the Conservatory for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He
attended Brooklyn College from 1939 to 1947, when he received his B.A.
He went on to study botany at Columbia University and received his M.A.
in 1952. Dr. Becker then went to the University of Michigan to study paleobotany
with Chester Arnold and received his Ph.D. in 1956.
From 1947 to 1968, Dr. Becker made a total of ten summer expeditions
to the Ruby River basin of southwestern Montana. These shale deposits provided
him with the research material he needed to complete his dissertation and
he continued to write extensively about the deposits of this area. He also
was known for his work in clarifying the structure of the controversial
Sanmiguelia from the Triassic deposits of Colorado.
Dr. Becker received many honors during his lifetime. He was a member
of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, the Cactus and Succulent
Society of America, and the New York Academy of Sciences. He served as
a fellow of the Geological Society of America and as president and vice-president
of the Torrey Botanical Club. In 1977 he received a Distinguished Service
Award from the Botanical Society of America. In 1981 he received a Distinguished
Achievement Award from the Brooklyn College Alumni Association, and in
1985 a symposium was held in his honor entitled "Evolution of the Modern
Vegetation of the Northern Rocky Mountains." The symposium was jointly
held by the Botanical Society of America and the American Association for
the Advancement of Science.
SCOPE AND CONTENT
This collection consists of Dr. Becker's research notes, teaching materials,
clippings file, and travel notebooks. Dr. Becker was also interested in
orchids and the collection includes two of his orchid photo scrapbooks.
Series 1: Personal Papers, 1931-1979
Series 2: Travel Notes, 1953-1968
Series 3: Research Notes and Clippings File
Series 4: Teaching Materials, 1961-1979
Series 5: Orchid Scrapbooks
Series 1 Personal Papers, 1931-1979
1.5 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.
Materials in this series include a souvenir of the Boy Scouts, Brooklyn
Botanic Gardens material, lecture invitations, a geology paper written
during Dr. Becker's student days, thank-you notes written by a class from
P.S. 92, advice to fossil hunters, book contract correspondence, and notes
on consulting work.
Series 2 Travel Notes, 1953-1968
5.7 lin. in.
One small box contains 13 wire-bound, pocket-sized notepads with various
jottings concerning trips and expenses. Many pads have only written on
a few notes and the bulk of them are blank. A larger box contains 9 notebooks
and numerous jottings and receipts. Two of the notebooks are labelled "Europe."
Series 3 Research Notes and Clippings File
4 lin. in.
These files are Dr. Becker's personal research notes and include several
folders of clippings from various newspapers and magazine sources. There
are files on the fossil beds of the Ruby River region, a New York Botanical
Garden symposium, orchids, Sanmiguelia, and Dr. Hollick. The Hollick
file was compiled by Dr. Becker's longtime assistant, Grace Meleney, and
appears to be the notes for an unpublished work. There is also a manuscript
in French and Italian entitled "Notes on the Echinocactus williamsii
Series 4 Teaching Materials, 1961-1979
11 lin. in.
This series consists of the lecture notes of Dr. Becker, his class handouts,
several outstanding student papers, and correspondence concerning his teaching
Series 5 Orchid Scrapbooks
2 lin. in.
These 2 albums of black-and-white photos are labeled with species. Orchids
were an interest of Dr. Becker.
The New York Botanical Garden
RG4 The Herman F. Becker Records
In 1983, the entire New York Botanical Garden Paleobotanical Collections
were placed on long-term loan with Yale University's Peabody Museum of
Natural History, where they remain a discrete collection.
Processed March 1999 by Stephen Sinon under a grant from
the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) PA-23141-98 and a grant
from the Harriet Ford Dickenson Foundation.
For more information and a complete description contact:
Susan Fraser, NYBG
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
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