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Arthur Cronquist (1919-1992)

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Records of the Herbarium (RG4)
25.4 linear feet (32 boxes)


Arthur Cronquist (1919-1992), an internationally renowned systematic botanist, was born on March 19, 1919, in San Jose, California. His boyhood was spent in Portland, Oregon and in Pocatello, Idaho, where he became interested in the natural history of the mountain regions of the west. Cronquist entered the University of Idaho (now Idaho State University) where Professor Ray J. Davis became an influential mentor. He gained a B.S. (1938) and M.S. (1940) from Utah State University. Here he met Dr. Bassett Maguire, who directed his course of study on the Aster foliaceus complex and who later became a colleague at The New York Botanical Garden. Cronquist gained his Ph.D. (1944) at the University of Minnesota under Dr. C. O. Rosenthal and came to the Garden in 1943. He left for a short period to teach botany at the University of Georgia (1946-1948) and at Washington State University (1948-1951), then returned to the Garden in 1952.

At the Garden, Henry A. Gleason nurtured Cronquist's interest in floristics, which led to a collaboration between the two men that resulted in publications that remain botanical classics to this day. The first was Gleason's New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora (1952), to which Cronquist contributed the section on the Asteraceae; the second was their Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada (1963), known to botany students as "the Green Bible." The manual is an encyclopedic reference and field book, whose intellectual genealogy can be traced to Nathaniel Lord Britton and Addison Brown's original Illustrated Flora of 1896-1898. A third co-authorship with Henry Gleason was The Natural Geography of Plants (1964).

Through his career Cronquist conducted fieldwork throughout North America, with a concentration on the study and collection of plants of the intermountain regions of the western United States. These studies resulted in the publication of Intermountain Flora (1972, volume one), co-authored with Arthur H. Holmgren, Noel H. Holmgren, and James L. Reveal. Cronquist was an authority on the family Compositae and authored three textbooks on introductory botany. In the later 1950's he began a correspondence and collaboration with the Armenian botanist, Armen Takhtajan, of the Komarov Institute in Leningrad, U.S.S.R. His work with Takhtajan and associate biologists at the Komarov proved a critical stimulus in the development of his synthetic projects in general botanic systems. During his association and friendship with Takhtajan, Cronquist studied and became proficient in Russian, visited the (then) Soviet Union on several occasions, and promoted scientific exchanges between the two countries.

As Director of Botany (1971-74) and Senior Scientist (1974-92), Cronquist carried important administrative duties at the Garden and at its satellite facility, the Cary Arboretum. During this time he also held faculty appointments at Columbia University and the City University of New York, where he served on the Executive Committee on Biology. His many professional affiliations included the American Society of Plant Taxonomists (president, 1962), the Botanical Society of America (president, 1973), the International Association of Plant Taxonomy (council member), and the Torrey Botanical Club (president, 1976). Professional awards and honors included the Leidy Medal of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia (1970), honorary vice-president of the XII International Botanical Congress, Leningrad (1975), the Asa Gray Award (American Society of Plant Taxonomists, 1985), and the Medal for Botany, Linnean Society of London (1986).

Arthur Cronquist was known for his towering physical stature, tall tales, and congeniality as well as for his commanding position as a botanist and educator. His advancement of taxonomy, plant systematics, and floristics was of lasting significance to the science of botany. He died on March 22, 1992 while, studying plant specimens in the herbarium of Brigham Young University in Utah.


The Arthur Cronquist collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts and typescripts, research papers, institutional and legal records, photographs, and artwork spanning Dr. Cronquist's forty-year career at The New York Botanical Garden (1952-1992). Artwork has been removed to The New York Botanical Garden Art and Illustration Collection #15, and field notebooks are located in the Collectors' Field Notebook collection. Records pertaining to the American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT) have been removed to the Garden's repository collection.


Series 1: Correspondence
    (a): General Correspondence
    (b): New York Botanical Garden Correspondence
    (c): Russian Correspondence
Series 2: New York Botanical Garden Administration
Series 3: Scientific Affiliations
Series 4: Research Grants
Series 5: Education
Series 6: Manuscripts and Typescripts
Series 7: Publishing Companies
Series 8: Photography and Illustration
Series 9: Research Papers and Projects
Series 10: Cannabis Cases

Series 1    Correspondence, 1950-1992
                  6.3 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

The correspondence is indexed by correspondent's last name (or organization name) and organized into three sub-series as follows. Correspondence is also located in other series where appropriate.

Subseries 1a    General Correspondence

Here are included letters from professional associates, occasional writers, friends, and graduate students. The collection also includes carbon copies of outgoing correspondence. Significant correspondents include Rolf Dahlgren, Leo C. Hitchcock, Arthur H. Holmgren, Ernst Mayr, James Reveal, Ernest Small, Frans Stafleu, and William C. Steere.

Subseries 1b    New York Botanical Garden Correspondence

This collection includes outgoing and incoming correspondence and memoranda of Garden staff relating to scientific and administrative work. Of special interest are communications with Bassett Maguire and the correspondence of Julius Cohn regarding a letter of Dr. Henry Gleason, dated November 15, 1952, in which Gleason details the history of his work as an ecologist. This letter was published as "A Letter from Dr. Gleason" in Brittonia, 39(2), 1987, pp.205-209, with a short preface by Cronquist. The original copy of Gleason's six-page letter to Cohn is attached to the Cohn-Cronquist correspondence.

Subseries 1c    Russian Correspondence

Here can be found outgoing and incoming correspondence with colleagues in the former Soviet Union, some of which is typewritten in Russian (Cyrillic). There are 7 files of Cronquist's correspondence with Armen Takhtajan (1957 to 1992), including 4 pertaining to specific projects or publications undertaken in collaboration. One file pertains to the Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov relating to constituent opinions of the Botanical Society of America members regarding a position statement of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on the Sakharov case in 1973.

Series 2    New York Botanical Garden Administration, 1964-1992
                  1.6 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

This series includes records pertaining to Cronquist's administrative duties, e.g., employment (applications, resumes, curriculum vitae), accounting (budget and salary records), publications (meeting minutes), policy, general affairs, and administration of the Cary Arboretum.

Series 3    Scientific Affiliations, 1953-1992
                  2.1 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

Series 3 consists of meeting minutes, correspondence, and notices relating to the administration and publications in the several organizations represented. Affiliations include the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Institute for Biological Sciences (IABS), the Botanical Society of America (BSA), Flora North America (FNA), the Torrey Botanical Club (TBC), and three International Botanical Congresses. As council member of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT), Cronquist received documents relating to the founding of the organization in 1936 and correspondence of the first 25 years of the society's existence. These files, all prior to Cronquist's ASPT stewardship, have been removed from the collection and placed with the records of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists (Repository Archives, New York Botanical Garden).

Series 4    Research Grants, 1955-1992
                  1.0 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

This collection comprises grant proposals and related materials relate primarily to National Science Foundation (NSF) grants. The material consists of reports, correspondence, and notes relating to grant proposals by Dr. Cronquist for his own research and/or on behalf of others. In some cases, proposals have several authors to fund joint projects. Notable proposals include the Flora of the Pacific Northwest (Cronquist and Hitchcock) and Intermountain Flora (Cronquist, et al).

Series 5    Education, 1967-1978
                  1.0 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

This series consists of administrative records relating to faculty and administrative appointments Cronquist held at Columbia University and at the City University of New York (CUNY). The records largely pertain to doctoral review committees and the CUNY Executive Committee on Biology and contain information relating to New York Botanical Garden affiliations with the 2 universities.

Series 6    Manuscripts and Typescripts, 1939-1992
                  2.0 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by author.

This series contains scientific articles in draft form (some in press), many of which were directed to Cronquist for his review and advice. All manuscripts and typescripts are indexed alphabetically by author. There are 8 manuscripts authored by Cronquist himself, and 2 with T. Barkley as co-author. Photographs and/or illustrations supporting the texts are located in Series 8: Photography and Illustration.

Series 7    Publishing Companies, 1957-1992
                  0.3 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

Correspondence, contracts, sample pages, tear sheets, and lists of author's corrections form the bulk of material in this series. While publishers of scientific periodicals also appear here, most files pertain to publishing houses that handle book-length works, especially university presses. Notable here is Columbia University Press, publisher of Evolution and Classification of Flowering Plants.

Series 8    Photography and Illustration, 1962-1991
                  3.75 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

This series consists of loose and mounted photos, two-tone prints, mock-ups, sketches, and other illustrations relating to book publications, especially to the textbooks Introductory Botany, Basic Botany, and An Integrated System of Classification of Flowering Plants. Illustrators of the latter are Bobbi Angell and Robin Jess, whose work has been removed to The New York Botanical Garden Art and Illustration Collection #15. There are also several photo portraits of botanists, including Russian and Armenian scholars from the Soviet Union.

Series 9    Research Papers and Projects, 1936-1990
                  6.2 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

12 boxes of index cards of plant specimens collected in the field, organized alphabetically by genus, make up a large part of this series. Each card provides data on specimens collected in the field and include species name, location and state, collection date, and collector's name. Additional information on specimens appears in Dr. Cronquist's field notebooks located in The New York Botanical Garden Collectors' Field Notebook Collection. There are also notes and records of legal cases for which Cronquist was consulted, notably the Cache Creek-Bear Thrust Environmental Impact Statement relating to a legal battle to prevent land development near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Another involved information on a "creationism" case. The series also contains 5 files relating to Dr. Cronquist's death in 1992 and an unfinished research project. Included are commemorative presentations delivered at the Arthur Cronquist Memorial at The New York Botanical Garden on May 2, 1992.

Series 10    Cannabis Cases, 1972-1983
                    1.1 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

This series consists of legal documents (testimonies, opinions, orders, and summaries) of several criminal cases involving the prosecution of individuals for possession of marijuana. Called upon for his taxonomic expertise, Cronquist supplied information on the analysis and history of Cannabis taxonomy; he held that the genus consists of only one species, Cannabis sativa. There is also correspondence with Ernest Small, a Canadian colleague and expert on Cannabis taxonomy, and its legal dimensions in American society.


The New York Botanical Garden

ART    Collection #15

CFN    Numbers 503-611

RG4    Records of the Herbarium Office (1933-1964)

RA      American Society of Plant Taxonomists Records

Processed June 1999 by David Rose 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 Archivist
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
(718) 817-8879

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