From Plant Press Vol. 17 no. 2, April 2014.
By Nancy Khan and Warren Wagner
The Department of Botany is pleased to announce that a generous gift in 2013 from Christopher C. Smith, Professor Emeritus in the Division of Biology at Kansas State University and son of Lyman and Ruth Smith, has created a new endowment in support of early career research fellows in botany. The endowment, named the Lyman B. and Ruth C. Smith Endowment Fund, is designed to provide career development opportunities for young scientists to further their research and education through studies of plants at the U.S. National Herbarium (US) and through interactions with our research staff. This charitable gift will be held in a permanent fund with an annual award made to support and sustain the work of fellows in residence within the department.
Through this endowment Christopher Smith has created an enduring award that will continue to recognize the important contributions that Lyman Smith and his wife Ruth made to the field of botanical research. Lyman Smith began his distinguished career at Harvard University where as a doctoral candidate he made his first collecting trip to South America to collect bromeliads and other tropical plants in Brazil. In 1947 he joined the Smithsonian’s Department of Botany and worked as a Research Botanist in the museum for over 40 years, including many years after his retirement.
Lyman Smith was a dedicated taxonomist who studied and identified plants from a broad range of areas and groups and was widely recognized as a world authority on many tropical families, especially the bromeliads (Bromeliaceae). Over the course of his lengthy career he published prolifically, authoring over 1,700 new taxa and 519 publications, with his seminal work being a reorganization of the Bromeliaceae in Flora Neotropica which he completed between 1974 – 1979 during his tenure as an Emeritus Curator in the Department. He was founding member of the Bromeliad Society and accumulated many awards for his contributions to Bromeliad research (Taxon 46: 819-824; 1997). At least 50 species have been named in his honor, including two bromeliads discovered in South America as recently as 1999. Tillandsia lymanii Rauh and Mezobromelia lyman-smithii Rauh & Barthlott are fitting tributes in recognition of his legacy of exceptional scholarship in the field of tropical plants.
While largely unrecognized for her efforts, Ruth Smith provided invaluable assistance and support throughout her husband’s career. She proof-read countless papers and classification keys, collected specimens with him on multiple trips to South America, supplied photographs, and co-authored the volume on "Begoniaceas" in the series "Flora Ilustrada Catarinense" edited by P. Raulino Reitz. Together Ruth and Lyman raised five children, at least two of whom have actively pursued careers in the natural sciences. Christopher Smith taught evolutionary biology at Kansas State University for 33 years. Stephen Smith became the second in the family to pursue a career at the National Museum of Natural History working to identify, catalog, and care for herbarium specimens from 1978 – 2012. Through this new endowment Christopher Smith has expressed his desire to honor “their exemplary dedication to the exploration, study, and understanding of plants” and hopes “that the recipients of the Lyman B. and Ruth C. Smith Endowment will carry on their tradition of the passionate and earnest pursuit of taxonomic research in botany.” We look forward to announcing the first recipient of this award within the year.
This new gift is particularly exciting as it is the first the Department has received specifically in support of research scholarship thus enabling the Department to expand its opportunities for young botanists to develop and pursue their research interests. In addition, it broadens the Department’s growing suite of endowments secured by gifts received over the past 80 years. The Department’s endowments currently exceed $2.6 million and are managed by the Office of Investments in accord with the investment goals, objectives, and policies of the Smithsonian Institution. A brief review of the suite of eight discrete funds dedicated to the Department of Botany reveals a genuine and unwavering munificence by donors who have contributed greatly to the longevity and ability of the Department to pursue its core mission of scientific research and collections development.
The earliest source of support for the department, the Albert S. Hitchcock Fund, was established in 1937 as a memorial fund to maintain the Hitchcock-Chase Library and Collections. By bequest the library was transferred to the department in the same year to be kept intact with the grass herbarium. Hitchcock and Mary Agnes Chase were pivotal figures in the founding of the Section of Grasses and subsequent growth of the grass herbarium in the Smithsonian’s U.S. National Museum as it was called in the early 1900s. Hitchcock was initially hired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as an agrostologist in 1901, but quickly moved into a position as taxonomist and curator of the grass herbarium in 1905. Soon thereafter, in 1912 he was appointed by the Smithsonian as a custodian without remuneration of the Section of Grasses. Although the USDA herbarium was officially transferred and merged with the Smithsonian collections in 1896 it wasn’t until Hitchcock joined the staff of both the USDA and the Smithsonian that the first-rate grass collection was finally transferred to the Smithsonian.
Hitchcock travelled widely and made extensive field collections, eventually depositing over 25,000 specimens at US. In addition to his personal collections deposited at US he facilitated the acquisition of the private herbarium of Lamson-Scribner in 1913, increasing the holdings and importance of the grass herbarium significantly by adding numerous type specimens. Hitchcock was also influential in educating botanists to adopt the type concept for naming species. Over the period of 40 years he published extensively, assembling a body of work that contained more than 250 publications, and accumulating over 6,000 agrostological books and pamphlets (Science 83: 222-224; 1936).
Chase joined USDA in 1903 as a botanical illustrator and worked closely with Hitchcock until his death in 1935. She then succeeded him as custodian of the grass herbarium. She also made a large number of field collections and published over 70 articles, monographs, and books including the First Book of Grasses and a revision of the Manual of Grasses of the United States. She received numerous accolades for her research including recognition as an Honorary Fellow of the Smithsonian in 1959 (Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 229). Their collection of over 2,707 grass illustrations by them and other artists are on indefinite loan to the Hunt Institute and is available online at http://fmhibd.library.cmu.edu/HIBD-DB/ArtCat/findrecords.php. The grass library and collection are now one of the largest in the world and most important for the amount of type material deposited in the herbarium. The Hitchcock Fund has contributed towards the purchase of new volumes, the curation of specimens, illustration and publishing expenses, and the translation of foreign language publications.
The Department’s second endowment, the Mary Vaux Walcott Fund, originated in 1951 from the sale of North American Wild Flowers, a portfolio of 400 watercolor plates painted by Walcott, wife of the Fourth Secretary of the Smithsonian. The five volume collection was first published in 1925 using a special color process under her personal supervision and private sponsorship. A one-page description of the plant, prepared by Walcott in collaboration with research botanists, accompanied each plate providing scientific data and facts of interest. The original DeLuxe Limited Edition set sold for $500. As reported in the Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for 1952, the Board of Regents established the fund from the proceeds of the plates sold by the Institution over the previous 27 years in recognition of her lifelong interest in Botany.
The Walcott Fund’s designated use is for technical publications in botany as related to research undertaken in the U.S. National Herbarium. Projects supported by this fund have included non-salaried aspects of work completed by Alice Tangerini as Department Illustrator, contract botanical illustrations, the preparation of manuscripts to be submitted to the Smithsonian Contributions in Botany series, publication costs for numerous research papers published by the Department, digital imaging of the vascular type specimens, and scanning of 35 mm slides for use in website publication. In 1990 the department organized an exhibit of 50 of Walcott’s original watercolors to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her death. A complete original set is currently held in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution Archives and can be viewed through the online Biodiversity Heritage Library (Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1952).
In 1966, John A. Stevenson gifted assets to the Department to constitute a fund known as the John A. Stevenson Mycological Library Fund to be used for the maintenance and care of the Stevenson Mycological Library or to meet other Departmental objectives if the primary goals have been fulfilled. A dedicated mycologist and bibliophile, Stevenson amassed a large personal collection of mycological and phytopathological reference materials that formed the basis of what has become the world renowned library of the National Fungus Collections. He donated his entire library collection of over 35,000 periodicals and books to the Smithsonian in 1952. Although Stevenson spent most of his professional career in the employment of USDA (1918 – 1960) he was appointed as an Honorary Curator of Fungi at the Smithsonian in 1943 to care for the diverse mycological collection comprised primarily of over 58,000 specimens donated to the Smithsonian in 1928 by the estate of Curtis G. Lloyd as per Stevenson’s counsel.
Throughout this period of active curation and dual appointments Stevenson was instrumental in consolidating the fungus herbaria and libraries of the USDA and the Smithsonian through a cooperative agreement between the two institutions, arranging for them to be housed together at the USDA complex in Beltsville, Maryland for the convenience of researchers, and finally in 1953 designating the jointly held, but separately owned, collections as the National Fungus Collections. Stevenson was an active member of the Botanical Society of Washington, the Botanical Society of America, the Washington Academy of Sciences, the Mycological Society of America and many other professional organizations in recognition of his wide-ranging contributions to the field of mycology which he continued well into retirement (Mycologia 77: 841-847; 1985. Taxon 4: 181-185; 1955). Over the years the original collection has grown to more than 80,000 volumes with funds from the Stevenson endowment providing for their purchase, restoration, and repair as needed.
William Andrew Archer chose to honor his mother through a bequest to the department in 1973. Upon his death an endowment, known as the Catherine Beauregard Memorial Fund, was created. As per his wishes, funds support the mission of the Botany Department’s library and meet other Departmental objectives if the primary goals have been fulfilled. Archer’s affiliation with the Department of Botany was not formalized until 1964 after his retirement from a career with USDA and the National Arboretum when he was appointed as a Research Associate. The main body of his active research focused on plant exploration and collection primarily in Central and South America and Africa for crops, ornamentals, and medicinal plants. He collected over 10,000 specimens, most of which are deposited at US. In retirement he enjoyed working in the herbarium on archival projects as related to the Mexican Boundary Survey (Taxon 23: 755-758; 1974).
The Beauregard Fund has proven invaluable because of the duality of the fund’s purpose. The first has supported the Botany Library by purchasing books and journals, filling gaps in journal series, and other support for the library and its holdings. Secondly, as Archer specified, once library needs have been met additional funds can be used for other purposes in the Department. In this way it has been a very flexible funding source for various departmental projects such as collections care and research beyond what is provided for through Federal funding levels.
In 1983 at the bequest of Francis Drouet, the U.S. National Herbarium received his personal Cyanophyta collection and related library along with funds (received in 1984) to establish the Harold B. Louderback – Francis Drouet Fund providing for the maintenance and permanent storage of these two premier collections. Drouet’s remarkable career spanned a 55 year period during which he held appointments in botany at the University of Missouri, Yale University, Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, New Mexico Highlands University, University of Arizona, and Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia (ANSP). His interest in the blue-green algae began during his tenure as the Curator of the Cryptogamic Herbarium at the Chicago Field Museum from 1938 – 1958 and became a lifelong pursuit. He undertook a thorough and systematic review of all relevant literature, existing herbarium specimens including all type specimens, and his substantial field collections culminating in five monographs revising many groups of Cyanobacteria. Throughout his career he frequently sent specimens to US and maintained professional associations with many former Smithsonian curators including E. Yale Dawson, Mason Hale, and Lyman Smith.
Although Drouet added thousands of specimens to ANSP while on staff he chose to deposit his personal herbarium of over 39,000 specimens and 5,000 type specimens from around the world at US. His friend and colleague, Harold B. Louderback, frequently assisted Drouet on collecting trips and in his research activities. At the Chicago Field Museum Louderback accessioned specimens, assisted with management of the collection, and completed a catalogue of the genera of cryptogams. Specimen records show that they continued to collect together for the remainder of their careers. The Smithsonian was fortunate to receive these collections through the professional relationships Drouet maintained with curatorial staff and the understanding that his collections would be housed in the new state-of-the art facilities at the Museum Support Center in Silver Hill, Maryland (Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phila. 135: 267-268; 1983. Taxon 33: 159-167; 1984).
The Drouet fund has effectively provided for various aspects of collections support including the maintenance and databasing of the Drouet Collections as well as upgrades to storage facilities. It has also supported other activities related to a modern and well-curated research collection by funding field photography of cyanobacteria, specimen imaging, and expansion of the collection through databasing of other relevant material such as cyanolichens.
The José Cuatrecasas Botanical Endowment Fund began with a gift from Pedro and Carol Cuatrecasas in 1997 in memory of Pedro’s father, José Cuatrecasas, who is widely considered to be one of the great botanical explorers of South America. The endowment is intended to honor the lifelong botanical work and achievements of this pioneering botanist who spent many years working in the Department of Botany at the Smithsonian. His research, especially in the flowering plant family Asteraceae, was devoted to the discovery, classification, biogeography, and ecology of plants of the páramo and subpáramo regions of Andean South America. José Cuatrecasas spent his early career in Spain, Colombia, and at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History before joining the Department of Botany in 1955.
During his long career Cuatrecasas published more than 250 research papers, including 3,308 new taxa of plants. He spent much of his time in the Department working to complete a massive monographic manuscript on the subtribe Espeletiinae of the Compositae (sunflower family). In addition to his monograph, which was published posthumously in 2013 (http://www.nybg.org/press/books_memoirs.php), he also compiled a remarkable photographic archive with more than 20,000 images. He kept meticulous field notes and recorded many details that aided his discoveries. His extensive notes and the images are actively maintained by the Department as a separate Cuatrecasas Archive which will ultimately be made accessible via a public website. Together with Raymond Fosberg, José Cuatrecasas was largely responsible for establishing the Organization for Flora Neotropica in 1964 in order to further efforts to document all plant taxa in the New World tropics (Taxon 46: 132-134; 1997).
The Cuatrecasas Botanical Endowment Fund was set up to honor the extraordinary achievements of José Cuatrecasas by providing funds to support significant research projects that emulate the spirit of the research of Don José Cuatrecasas. Since 2006 the fund has primarily supported fellowship awards for young research botanists to visit the US National Herbarium, use the collections, and interact with research staff. Thus far we have awarded 43 fellowships. Each year we have been fortunate to support more fellows than provided for by the fund’s annual disbursement through additional support received from the Director of the National Museum of Natural History. The Department also initiated a special lifetime award, the José Cuatrecasas Medal for Excellence in Tropical Botany, which has been given annually since 2001 to a distinguished botanist. As well, regular lectures and symposia, including special events such as the Smithsonian Botanical Symposium which is now more than a decade old, have been organized with sponsorship from this endowment.
This fund has benefited greatly from the generosity of many donors, including a separate but matching Challenge Grant received from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation which is used primarily to extend the scope of activities and projects as relevant to the Cuatrecasas Botanical Endowment Fund. The Department receives an annual gift from the Cuatrecasas Family Foundation that supports either the Smithsonian Botanical Symposium or the continued growth of the endowment.
The Department of Botany is extremely appreciative of the many friends, colleagues, and associates who have given so generously of their encouragement and assets to establish these endowment funds over the past eight decades. These gifts have become a critical source of support for Departmental programs and operations. While the early endowment gifts received by the Department have historically been dedicated to the preservation of literature or physical collections there is an increasing interest by donors to support the pursuit of pioneering research and the communication of significant results. Current or potential donors who are interested in establishing or contributing to an endowment in the Department of Botany should contact the Department directly at (202) 633-0920 or inquire of Warren Wagner, Chair, (202) 633-0968, firstname.lastname@example.org.