An under-celebrated leader of western US botany
contributed by Eric LoPresti @Saab95adventure
Agriculture, Biodiversity, Conservation, Desert, Ecology, Field, Forest, Fundamental research, Grassland, Historical figure, Lab, Medicine, Natural history, North America, Plants, Species richness, Systematics, Terrestrial, Woman
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Katherine Brandegee was a pioneering botanist in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Biography in brief
Katherine Brandegee was born in Tennessee, moved to California in her twenties and eventually went to medical school in San Francisco, where she took up botanical studies. She was later appointed curator of botany at the prestigious California Academy of Science, and gave this post to Alice Eastwood, and moved to San Diego, where she set up an herbarium. Eventually her and her husband’s 76,000 plant specimen were donated to Berkeley, where she worked upon moving north from San Diego.
Axes of identity & underrepresentation
Asa Gray is pretty much known as the “father” of botany in the US, but Brandegee and many of her teachers/colleagues/students were absolutely instrumental in collecting and describing western plants at the same time, but do not get the same recognition.
Take home message of study
Brandegee was a major figure in botany, curating the California Academy of Science collection (an influential position) and describing many new plants to science!
One of the many species Katherine Brandegee described – Mimulus nudatus – a rare and distinctive monkeyflower which grows in a small part of the Northern California Coast Range.
Key Research Points
Main contributions/Key Figure
Katherine Brandegee’s personal herbarium in San Diego (photo: Jepson Herbarium)
Basic description of plants is important in every ecological discipline; Brandegee was trained as a botanist because of the medical importance of plants in that day and held an M.D..