Archives and Manuscript Collections
HENRY A. GLEASON PAPERS (1835-1968)
2.3 linear feet (6 boxes)
Allan Gleason (1882-1975) was born in Dalton City, Illinois on Jan. 2,
1882. He began his studies in botany at the age of 13 and published his
first contribution in The American Naturalist while still in high
school. He received his B.S. and M.A. from the University of Illinois.
After a year as a fellow at the University of Ohio and a summer as the
zoologist of invertebrates on a survey of Isle Royale, sponsored by the
University of Michigan, Gleason began his studies in taxonomy under Nathanial
Lord Britton at Columbia University, graduating with a Ph.D. in 1906.
After teaching at the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan,
Dr. Gleason studied tropical vegetation for one year, traveling to the
Philippines, Java, and Ceylon. In 1918 he delivered a lecture on his findings
to the Torrey Botanical Club. Following that talk, Nathanial Lord Britton
offered Gleason a permanent position at The New York Botanical Garden.
In his 30 years with The New York Botanical Garden, Dr. Gleason served
in a variety of capacities including curator, head curator, and assistant
director. He was acting director for 19 months between 1936 and 1938. Gleason
served at various times as editor of the Garden Journal, Addisonia,
and the Bulletin. He edited, revised and expanded editions of both
North American Flora and Plants of the Vicinity of New
A taxonomist and ecologist, Dr. Gleason was responsible for the development
of the South American collections at The New York Botanical Garden. His
specialty was the Melastomacea.
When the American Museum of Natural History sent the first expedition
to explore Mt. Duida in Venezuela, the zoologist G. H. H. Tate collected
botanical material for Gleason which resulted in hundreds of species descriptions.
Dr. Gleason was responsible for over 235 contributions to the field
of vascular botany. One of the first ecologists, he considered his idea
that the "combination of morphological and geographical evidence can be
of greatest service in developing the phylogeny and history of a group
of plants" to be his primary theoretical contribution. He is identified
with the individualistic concept of plant association, which has been a
strong influence on both ecological and geographical studies of vegetation.
Gleason retired from The New York Botanical Garden in December, 1950.
During his retirement, he wrote two unpublished works: an autobiography,
The Short and Simple Annals of Henry A. Gleason and Thumbnail
Sketches of Botanists, a reference copy of which is shelved in The
LuEsther T. Mertz Library. Henry Gleason died on April 12, 1975.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The Henry Allan Gleason Papers, 1835-1973, document the life and career
of Dr. Gleason before and after his association with The New York Botanical
Garden. The bulk of the material consists of manuscripts produced by Dr.
Gleason during his retirement - a three-volume autobiography, The Short
and Simple Annals of Henry A. Gleason; reminiscences of his contacts
with the leading botanists of his age; and historical and scientific essays.
Other materials are brochures and memorabilia related to his research tour
of the Far East in 1913-1914, herbarium labels and signatures collected
by Dr. Gleason, personal and professional correspondence, photographs and
realia. The collection is arranged into seven series.
Series 1: Biographical Material
Series 2: Correspondence
Series 3: Manuscripts and Publications
Series 4: Label and Signtaure Collection
Series 5: Travel Memorabilia
Series 6: Photographs
Series 7: Realia
Series 1 Biographical
0.5 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically.
This series contains material about Dr. Gleason's family, his early
school records, financial records, diaries, and the manuscript of a 3-volume
autobiography written between 1961 and 1964.
Series 2 Correspondence,
0.25 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically.
Letters from Dr. Gleason's family during his school years and professional
contacts regarding publications and collections make up the bulk of this
series. There is one folder of correspondence addressed to Professor
T. J. Burrill, which has signed letters from some of the most distinguished
scientists of the era preceding Dr. Gleason's. Another folder of material
from Thea Mattei tells the story of Gleason's courtship and
their eventual marriage. Dr. Gleason's early contact with the New York
Botanical Garden is also chronicled through correspondence with N. L. Britton,
E. D. Merrill and L. M. Underwood.
Series 3 Manuscripts
and Publications, 1904-1962
0.5 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically.
This series holds the whimsical aspects of Dr. Gleason's career. One
folder contains some lines of music and poetry composed by him, and a number
of parodies of the popular songs of the day. Other material includes a
full run of the mimeographed community newletter, The Biolog, published
at the summer station of the University of Michigan, during Gleason's tenure.
The original and a reference copy of the book Thumbnail Sketches of
Botanists, invaluable for biographers of botanists, is included in
this series. A bound copy is in The LuEsther T. Mertz Library collection.
Also in this series is a collection of essays on scientific and non-scientific
topics, a long biographical essay on Nathanial Lord Britton, and an unidentified
bibliography which touches on a variety of plant families and includes
references dated before 1925.
Series 4 Label and
Signature Collection, n.d.
Dr. Gleason's collection of herbarium and collectors' labels was gathered
over a lifetime and donated to the New York Botanical Garden in 1968.
Series 5 Travel Memorabilia,
0.3 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.
This series contains ephemera from Dr. Gleason's research trip to the
Far East. He traveled on the steamships "SS. Manchuria" and "Nordeutscher
Lloyd", stopping in Italy, Switzerland, the Philippines, Singapore, Ceylon,
Java, and Japan. The series contains brochures and maps from each location.
A packet of cartes de visite is contained in the steamship folder.
One folder contains his field notes and the specimens collected during
Series 6 Photographs,
0.15 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.
Included in this series are portrait photographs and snapshots of Dr.
Gleason, his family, and their various living quarters. One folder contains
snapshots of Dr. Gleason's ninety-first birthday party in 1973. Other photographs
are reproductions of award certificates with which he was honored. All
negatives are housed in one folder.
Series 7 Realia, n.d.
0.1 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.
This series contains three-dimensional objects, separated from other
series for more secure storage.
The New York Botanical Garden
RG4 Henry A. Gleason Records
Processed January 1999 by Laura Zelasnic 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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