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Fernald, Merritt Lyndon, 1873-1950. Merritt Lyndon Fernald papers, 1887-1934: A Guide.

Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Botany Libraries, Harvard University
Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Botany Libraries, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: gra00023
Repository: Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Botany Libraries, Harvard University
Creator: Fernald, Merritt Lyndon, 1873-1950
Title: Merritt Lyndon Fernald papers
Date(s): 1887-1934
Quantity: 3.4 linear feet (11 boxes, 1 flat oversize box, oversize materials in flat file, 4 oversize maps folders in Archives Map Case)
Language of materials: English


The bulk of Fernald's papers likely remained at the Gray Herbarium after his death. No record has been found of gifts or bequests. The manuscript on Antennaria megacephala was given to the Gray Herbarium archives by Richard Alden Howard on June 5, 1984.

Processed by:

Lynn McWhood
February 1982

Conditions Governing Access:

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:

Merritt Lyndon Fernald papers, Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University.

Related Materials

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


Merritt Lyndon Fernald was born in Orono, Maine on October 5, 1873, to Mary Lovejoy and Merritt Caldwell Fernald. He attended Orono High School and entered Maine State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1890. He began publishing notes and articles in the "Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club" shortly thereafter. Impressed by the strength of these writings and a letter he received from Fernald in January 1891, Sereno Watson offered him a position at the Gray Herbarium at Harvard University. Two months later Fernald moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to work half time in the herbarium while continuing his studies. In the fall of 1891 Fernald enrolled in the Lawrence Scientific School where he completed a B.S. in 1897. Fernald married Margaret Howard Grant in 1907. They had three children, Katherine, Henry, and Mary.
Fernald is best known for his work on phytogeography. He combined field work with herbarium work, and was an expert on the flora of eastern North America. He collected extensively in Maine and eastern Canada, frequently in the company of Brown University professor J. Franklin Collins. The two men made some of the first botanical explorations of the Gaspé Peninsula on several trips starting in 1904. Heart problems forced Fernald to scale back his explorations and in later years he turned his attention to the plants of Virginia.
In addition to his work at Harvard, Fernald was instrumental in establishing the Alstead School of Natural History in Alstead, New Hampshire and taught there during the summers from 1899 to 1901. He was a member of more than a dozen scientific societies and organizations, including the New England Botanical Club. Fernald also contributed to over 800 publications in his lifetime. He collaborated with Benjamin Lincoln Robinson on the seventh edition of "Gray's New Manual of Botany" published in 1908, and completed the eighth edition ("Gray's Manual of Botany") which was published in 1950. He received honorary degrees from Acadia University in 1933 and the University of Montreal in 1938. In 1949 he was awarded the Marie-Victorin Medal for services to botany in Canada. Fernald died on September 22, 1950, in Cambridge.

Curatorial Positions

Teaching Positions

Merrill ED. 1954. Merritt Lyndon Fernald, 1873-1950. Biogr. Mem. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 28:45-98.
Pease AS. 1951. Merritt Lyndon Fernald 1873-1950. Rhodora. 53(626):33-39.

Series Description

The collection is divided into 8 series by subject:

Scope and Content

The Fernald papers contain field notes, plant identification records and notes, manuscript material, proofs, notes, illustrations for publications, certificates of membership, maps, photographs, and correspondence pertaining to Fernald's botanical work. The bulk of his correspondence is filed separately with the Administrative correspondence of the Gray Herbarium and Harvard University Herbaria.
Some individual items and groups of related items in the collection have been assigned identifying numbers.
Published maps are described on the finding aid and also have individual catalog records. They are stored in the Gray Herbarium Archives Map Case. Most of the hand drawn or annotated maps are stored with the collection.

Container List