The New York Botanical Garden International Plant Science Center
Mertz Library
Science Home ... Mertz Library ... Archives and Manuscripts

Sidney Fay Blake (1892-1959)

Library Collections & Resources

Finding Guide

Archives and Manuscripts

Books and Journals

NonBook Collection

Circulating Collection

Searchable Databases and Electronic Resources

Archives and Manuscript Collections

Personal Papers
2.5 linear inches (1 box)


Sidney Fay Blake (1892-1959) was a taxonomist who was recognized as one of the world's experts on botanical nomenclature. His area was the Compositae. In 1956 he was named one of the 50 greatest living botanists in America by the Botanical Society of America. Blake contributed a treatment of the Polygalaceae to the original North American Flora.

Additionally, Blake was a bibliographer. The "Geographical Guide to the Floras of the World," which he began with Alice C. Atwood, a librarian at the Department of Agriculture library, provides a reference to obscure and famous floras, both books and articles, arranged geographically.

Sidney Blake was born in Stoughton, Massaschusetts on August 31, 1892. As a youth he came under the influence of Professor R. G. Leavitt, a neighbor who happened to be a botanist at Harvard. Blake entered Harvard with the purpose of studying botany. While there he studied with Benjamin Lincoln (B. L.) Robinson and Merritt Lyndon Fernald. He received his Ph.D. in 1916. His thesis was on Viguiera.

Following graduation, he joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture working under Frederick Coville in the Division of Botany where he prepared the Standardized Plant names. Blake refused promotions to administrative positions and for his entire career performed workmanlike tasks. All of his pure research was done in his spare time. His other areas of interest were paleontology and researching Sherlock Holmes for the Baker Street Journal.

In 1943 he was elected President of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists.

Blake was married to the former Doris M. Holmes, an entomologist. They resided in Arlington, Virginia. The Blakes had one daughter, Doris Sidney Ullman, of Urbana, Ill.

Sidney Blake died in his laboratory at Beltsville, Maryland on December. 31, 1959. He was memorialized in Taxon 9 (June, 1960), which featured his complete bibliography. His herbarium and library were acquired by the Texas Research Foundation. When the Texas Research Foundation was liquidated, its property and lands were distributed to Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Dallas and at Austin.


The Sidney Fay Blake Papers, 1922-1953, document Blake's collegial relationships within the international taxonomic community. It contains letters and postcards.


Series 1: Correspondence

Series 1    Correspondence
                 2.5 lin. in. Arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

This series contains selected correspondence on taxonomic issues with colleagues in the United States, Latin America, and Europe.


The New York Botanical Garden

PP William Cashman Ferguson Papers
RG4 Elmer Drew Merrill Records

American Philosophical Society

Sidney Fay Blake Correspondence

Gray Herbarium and Arnold Arboretum Combined Libraries, Harvard University

Papers of Benjamin Lincoln Robinson, 1887-1934
Administrative Correspondence of the Gray Herbarium, 179?-1965

Processed January 2000 by Laura Zelasnic, Project Archivist, under a grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH PA-23141-98) and the Harriet Ford Dickenson Foundation.

For more information and a complete description contact:
Susan Fraser, NYBG Archivist
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
(718) 817-8879

  Back to Top

NYBG Home  |  Science Home  |  About Us  |  Site Map  |  Participate  |  Contact Us
© 2003 The New York Botanical Garden  |  Photo Credits
Terms of Use  |  We welcome your feedback and suggestions.