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Abstract Detail

Historical Section

Flannery, Maura [1].

Darlington: A Case Study of a Historically Important Herbarium.

Herbaria come in all sizes and with vastly different histories. In this presentation, I willfocus on the history of a small but historically valuable collection, that of the William Darlington Herbarium at West Chester University. This is the second oldest institutional herbarium in the United States. It includes plants collected by such botanical notables as John Bartram, William Hooker, John Torrey, Asa Gray, Thomas Nuttall, and Constantine Rafinesque. This collection was in large part put together by William Darlington (1782-1863), a Pennsylvania physician, politician, banker, and botanist. While these may seem to be very different professions, all of the others did in fact influence his botanical work. Darlington's career as a banker not only provided funds to purchase collections, but also widened his network of acquaintances, giving him access to more specimens and botanical information. At the time, botany was a popular pastime for accomplished men in a number of professions. Physicians, like Darlington, were particularly interested in botany because plants provided many of the medicines of the day. But businessmen, bankers, and even politicians often kept herbaria. In fact, Darlington's role in politics,including three terms in the US House of Representatives, would have broadened his contacts with like-minded men and enabled him to cast his collecting net more broadly.Not only did Darlington collect plants himself, but he also published a flora of Chester County, PA and a brief biography of fellow physician and botanist William Baldwin along with the latter's correspondence. The herbarium at West Chester University was named in Darlington's honor in 1965. It is a record of what was important to an American botanist in the first half of the 19th century. It is also a time capsule demonstrating how a herbarium was organized in the past, since the collection is still accessed with the use of a card catalogue, and some of the newer specimens are housed in the wooden cases in which the collection was originally kept. The older sheets have been moved into more secure metal cases. What is perhaps most significant about this collection is that it remains as an independent entity and hasn't been absorbed into a larger herbarium. Its location within an educational institution means that it is accessible to students not only of botany, but of history as well.

Broader Impacts:

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1 - 28 Atlas Ave., Malverne, NY, 11565, USA

William Darlington
history of botany.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 29
Location: Morrow/Hyatt
Date: Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
Time: 11:30 AM
Number: 29006
Abstract ID:623

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