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William Codman Sturgis (1862-1942)

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 5.5 linear inches (1 box)


William Codman Sturgis (1862-1942) is best remembered for his collections and studies of the Myxomycetes, especially those of Colorado. He also studied plant pathology, forestry, and mycology. Additionally, he had a long career as a lay educator within the Protestant Episcopal Church.

Sturgis was born in Boston, Massachusetts on November 15, 1862. He studied botany at Harvard College, receiving his A.B. in 1884, A.M. in 1887, and his Ph.D. in 1889. His first work was as an assistant in the Cryptogamic Laboratory at Harvard University, followed by a position as vegetable pathologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and lecturer at the Yale School of Forestry (1891-1901). It was in Connecticut that he first became interested in the Myxomycetes. This interest was reinforced through a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Lister in England. A lifelong correspondence ensued, and after Lister's death, Sturgis continued to correspond with his daughter, Gulielma Lister. He received a number of rare specimens, especially type materials for the many new species proposed by them.

From 1904 to 1917, Sturgis was Dean of the School of Forestry at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While in Colorado, Sturgis made extensive collections of Myxomycetes of the area, among which were several forms which he proposed as new species.

Sturgis moved to New York City in 1917 to assume the position of Educational Secretary of the Board of Missions of the Episcopal Church in New York. He held this position until 1927. From 1929 to 1931 he was a lecturer at the College of Preachers in Washington D.C. From 1934 to 1938 he served as warden at St. Martin's House in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

In 1938, Robert Hagelstein, Honorary Curator of Myxomycetes at The New York Botanical Garden recommended that Sturgis's collection be purchased. The addition of Sturgis's 3,200 specimens, and his notes, drawings, and correspondence to the J. B. Ellis and Hagelstein Myxomycetes collections already established at the Garden made this the largest such collection in North America and one of the most important in the world.

William Sturgis died at his summer house in Annisquam, Massachusetts on September 29, 1942.


The William Codman Sturgis Papers document the study of his own collections and those of others which were sent to him for identification.  The collection contains notebooks, drawings, and correspondence arranged into two series.

Series 1    Notebooks, circa 1900-1934
                 3 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.

Sturgis's notebooks record his studies of his own collections and those sent to him by others in the field. His notes include research into the literature of the day and detailed watercolor drawings of some specimens.

Series 2    Correspondence 1896-1934
                 2.5 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.

Professional correspondence from Arthur and Gulielma Lister, the foremost myxomycetologists of their era predominate this series. Other correspondents include: Hugo Bilgram, Alleta F. Dean, E. L. Fullner, Helen M. Gilkey, Robert Hagelstein, and Charles Meylan.


The New York Botanical Garden

RG4     The Robert Hagelstein Collection

Archives of the Episcopal Church, Austin, TX

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

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