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Thaxter, Roland, 1858-1932. Roland Thaxter papers, 1880-1933: A Guide.

Archives of the Farlow Herbarium of Cryptogamic Botany, Botany Libraries, Harvard University
Archives of the Farlow Herbarium of Cryptogamic Botany, Botany Libraries, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: far00028
Repository: Archives of the Farlow Herbarium of Cryptogamic Botany, Botany Libraries, Harvard University
Title: Roland Thaxter papers
Date(s): 1880-1933
Quantity: 15.85 linear feet (4 cartons, 33 volumes of bound correspondence, 2 albums, and 1 card file box)
Language of materials: English


The Thaxter collection was donated to the Farlow Reference Library by Mabel Gray Thaxter.

Conditions Governing Use:

The collection is available by appointment for research. Researchers must register and provide two forms of valid photo identification. Please contact botref@oeb.harvard.edu for additional information.

Preferred Citation:

Roland Thaxter papers, Archives of the Farlow Herbarium of Cryptogamic Botany, Harvard University.

Related Materials

Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria:

Biographical Note

Roland Thaxter was born in Newton, Massachusetts, on August 28, 1858, to Levi Lincoln Thaxter and poet Celia Laighton Thaxter. Thaxter's parents nurtured in him an appreciation for the natural world and both have been credited for his unique writing style, marked by detailed descriptions, keen observations, and a dry wit. Thaxter entered Harvard College in 1878 and was awarded an A.B. in biology in 1882. An injury delayed his entry into Harvard Medical School until 1884. In 1886 Thaxter was awarded the Harris Fellowship and left medical school to study under Professor William Gilson Farlow. His work with Farlow prompted him to switch his concentration from entomology to cryptogamic botany. In 1888 Thaxter was awarded M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. Thaxter's first position was researching plant diseases at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. He returned to Harvard in 1891 to assist Farlow, eventually assuming full responsibility for teaching and research when Farlow retired from teaching in 1896. Thaxter spent over 40 years at Harvard as Assistant Professor, Professor, and Professor Emeritus of Cryptogamic Botany. In that time he taught nearly a thousand students. His most recognized achievement was his extensive research into the Laboulbeniales. Thaxter worked tirelessly to create a comprehensive monograph of the Laboulbeniales, publishing the first volume in 1896 and subsequent volumes in 1908, 1924, 1926, and 1931. At the time of his death he was working on a sixth volume. In spite of poor health Thaxter frequently traveled in the United States as well as to Europe, South America, and the West Indies to study and collect specimens for the Farlow Herbarium. He was a member of numerous prestigious scientific societies in the United States and abroad and was generally held to be one of the greatest mycologists of his age. The genus Thaxteria is named for him, as are several species of fungi and lichens. Thaxter married Mabel Gray Freeman in 1887. They had four children: Charles Eliot, Katherine, Elizabeth ("Betty"), and Edmund Lincoln. Charles Eliot died during Thaxter's yearlong sabbatical in South America in 1905-1906. Roland Thaxter died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on April 22, 1932.
Clinton GP. 1936. Biographical Memoir of Roland Thaxter, 1858-1932. Biogr. Mem. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 17:55-68.
Weston WH. 1933. Roland Thaxter. Mycologia. 25(2):69-89.

Series Description

The Thaxter papers are divided into 13 series:

Scope and Contents

The Thaxter papers contain correspondence, notebooks, plant specimens, lists and photographs of specimens, photographs and paper ephemera from Thaxter's travels, receipts, a commemorative album, manuscript proofs, research materials, and original drawings and plates for publication. Materials primarily relate to Thaxter's work as a cryptogamic botanist and instructor at Harvard.

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