Robinson, Benjamin Lincoln
(1864-1935).Papers of Benjamin Lincoln Robinson, 1887-1934: A Guide
Archives, Gray Herbarium, Harvard University Herbaria
University, Cambridge, MA 02138
c 1999 The President and Fellows of Harvard
Repository: Botany Libraries
Title: The Papers of Benjamin Lincoln Robinson (1864-1935)
Processed by Lynn McWhood
The bulk of the Robinson papers in the archives appear
to have been specifically set aside by Robinson as historical records.
No formal written record of provenance has been found.
Benjamin Lincoln Robinson was born on
Nov.8 ,1864, in Bloomington, Ill., the youngest of eight children. He received his early education
at home and then attended public schools and Illinois Normal School. He
entered Williams College in 1883, but was dissatisfied with the school
and left after three months. The following Fall he entered Harvard,
graduating in 1887. Shortly after graduation he married Margaret Louise Casson, and they traveled to Europe together in the summer of 1887. They settled in Strassburg, where Robinson began graduate studies in Oct. 1887. Robinson received he Ph.D. in Strassburg in 1889 and in 1890 returned
to Cambridge, where he became Sereno Watson's
assistant at the Gray Herbarium. Upon the death of
Watson in 1892, Robinson took over as curator, a post he retained
for most of his life.
After becoming curator, much of Robinson's energies were
directed toward completing work begun by his predecessors and toward improving thephysical plant of the herbarium. Robinson took up Watson's work on Gray's
Synoptical Flora of North America and had the first two fascicles published in 1895 and 1897, respectively. He continued to work for a while on a
third fascicle, but it was never published. With the collaboration of M.L. Fernald, Robinson prepared a revised edition of Gray's Manual, which was
published in 1908. From about 1900 to 1909 Robinson tried to have a new herbarium
building constructed in the general location of the current herbarium; eventually he
settled for reconstructing the building at the Botanic Garden. Robinson did
much of the design work himself, and the rebuilding took place from
Robinson's main personal research interest was the Eupatorium tribe of the Compositae. Robinson worked on a treatment of the Eupatoriums for Engler's Pflanzenreich, possibly in response to a Dec. 5, 1904, letter from Engler (see Gray Herbarium, Administrative Correspondence File under Engler) requesting a "Tüchtigen Systematiker"
at Harvard to work on Eupatorium. The work was never published, as either Robinson or Engler
decided that more work had to be done on certain areas of Eupatorium before a satisfactory
treatment could be prepared, and monographing Eupatoriums dominated
Robinson's research for the rest of his life. Earlier research work included a Flora of the
Galapagos Islands, published in 1902, based on the collections of the Hopkins-Standford Expedition. Robinson made a collection trip to Newfoundland in
1894 and collected plants near his summer home in Jaffrey, N.H., but
otherwise did not do much collecting. Although he was appointed Asa Gray
Professor in 1899, Robinson was not active in teaching.
involved in a number of scientific organizations, was a founding member of
the New England Botanic Club, and served as editor of Rhodora for many years. He took an active role in the discussions
of nomenclature that were being carried out in the International
Botanical Congresses, and he participated in at least two Congresses that took place in
Europe (1905 in Vienna, 1910 in Brussels).
He traveled to Europe a half-dozen times, visiting herbaria, making notes
and taking photos of specimens, especially of Eupatorium. Robinson spent
the last few years of his life in poor health and died on July 27,1935, at Jaffrey, N.H.
Robinson." Proc. Amer. Acad. 71: 539-542.
"Biographical Memoir of Benjamin Lincoln Robinson." National
Academy of Science 17: 305-330 (1936), followed by bibliography
"Benjamin Lincoln Robinson." Science 82: 142-143
papers consist of a half-dozen notebookscontaining notes on herbaria visited by Robinson, some notes on plants collected by Robinson, an
assortment of unpublished manuscripts, and miscellaneous notes, correspondence, certificates, etc.
The notebooks mostly cover visits to European
herbaria in 1905, 1910 and 1927-1928;
one notebook has notes on U.S. herbaria visited in 1916.
There are some records of photographs made.
The plant notes consist of a ledger book list of plants collected
in southern New Hampshire and southern Vermont, and a book containing labels
for Robinson's 1894 collections in Newfoundland.
The manuscripts give the impression of having been carefully gone through by Robinson,
and many have notes added by him indicating why they were saved. Manuscripts for published
works do not appear to have been preserved. There are notes on Leguminosae for the unpublished 3rd fascicle of the Synoptical
Flora of North America; drafts on Eupatorium intended for Pflanzenreich: notes on the flora of Cocos Island, possibly intended to expand Robinson's Flora of the Galapagos Islands,
including a hand-drawn map of the island by Henry Pittier and a portion of manuscript by W.G. Farlow; a draft of a talk given to the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences, winter 1918-1919; and a number of keys and other manuscripts pertaining to Eupatorium.
The miscellaneous materials consist of lettersand notes pertaining to corrections of Gray's Manual, 7th ed.; letters announcing the awarding memberships, diplomas, etc. to Robinson; and a collection of diplomas and membership certificates.
are also portions of Robinson manuscripts in two other collections in the archives. The Fernald papers include a draft of a revision of Gray's
Field, Forest and Garden Botany that was worked on by Fernald
and Robinson but not published. The Weatherby papers include notes by Robinson and Weatherby on
corrections of the fern section for the eighth edition of Gray's Manual. The
Fernald papers also include some bibliographic notes for Gray's
Manual, 7th ed. in Robinson's hand.
The Gray Herbarium, Administrative
Correspondence Files contain some 380 letters from Robinson,
many of which were written during the summers in Jaffrey, N.H., and
during the trips to Europe. There are also a few letters from Robinson in the Historic
Letters File and in the collections of Weatherby, G.G. Kennedy and others.
Note: A good portion of the Administrative Correspondence files could be considered Robinson's correspondence. It
would take a great deal of work to estimate how many letters in this
file were directed to him.
(BOX AL - AN)
1. Listing of specimens of various genera in Gray Herbarium, pp.1-21; Notes on European
herbaria (Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Kew), 1905, pp.22-23, 30-110, including notes on photographs.
2. Notes on European herbaria (Paris, Geneva, London), 1910,
pp.[1-45]; Notes on Harvard College
descriptions of botany courses, 1866-1872,
pp.[47-53]; List of photographs, 1910, toward end of notebook, 15pp.
3. Notes on herbaria of New York Botanical Garden and U.S. National Museum, 1916, and on Arnold Arboretum,
4. Notes on European herbaria (Paris, London, Geneva, Kew, Berlin), 1927. [Looseleaf notebook, sections of notes were found inside covers but not held by rings, grouped on small
clumps with paperclips.]
5. "Photographs taken
on European trip on Bot. ? 1927, " about 100pp.; lists
photos taken in European herbaria, 1927, 1928.
6. Notes on European herbaria (Paris, London, Kew), 1928, about 50pp.
Bound notebook containing "labels of plants collected in Newfoundland,
during the summer of 1894 by B.L. Robinson and H. Schrenk"; 24 p. of pasted in labels, nos.
1-239. In plant box I, 31.5.
Ledger-style bound notebook containing list of plants of southern New Hampshire (n.d.), 24 pp., nos. 1-1033; list of plants of southern Vermont (n.d.), 5 pp., nos. 1-184. In Plant List Box I 31.5.
Typedlist: "Plants of Hampshire Co., Mass., collected by B.L. Robinson, 1912, " 4 pp., nos.. 482-600. In Inactive Plant List File.
7. Legumnosae: several genera worked for fasc 3, Synoptical flora. Ms. notes in ink on Lupinus, Pithacollobium, Schrankia, Gymnocladus, Stylosanthes, Genista, Cytisus, Ulex, Spartium, Medicago, Melilotus, Amphicarpa, Missolia, Neptunia, Desmanthus, Calliandra, Leucaena, Tephrosia, Psoralea, Pickeringia, Thermopsis, Petalostemum, Dalea, Baptisia, Acacia, Cassia, Mimosa, Lysiloma, Albizzia, Prosopsis. Some are labeled
"Done to Apr. 1900." The whole group probably dates ca. 1897-1900. Pencil notes on Lupinus on large
sheets of paper were folded into initial sections of this manuscript and
are now stored separately in large folder labeled "7a".
8. Pflanzenreich: Proof underscored by Harms, 1905; typed drafts of Ophryosporus, Helogyne, Phania, Ageratell, Decachaeta, Trichocoronis, Oaxacania, Carphochaete, Eupatoriastrum, Piqueria; carbon of final copy; folder
labeled "Copied ms" containing ms, pencil, ink drafts. A note
surrounding whole set said:"continuation of this work was found not to be feasible until various
preliminary revisions had been made working up Eupatoriums, Mikanias, etc. from special regions." Probably dates from 1905 and after.
9. Alomia for Pflanzenreich: 24pp., ms in pencil, dated Nov. 30, 1924, Note at
beginning says:"This ms. started on Nov. 1924 but given up as not feasible at the time. B.L.R.
1935." Flora of Coco Island: notes for an
unpublished work that seems to have been intended to extend Robinson's Flora of the
Galapagos Islands (1902).
10. (Large folder) 6 letters to Robinson: 1 from Hermann Christ, May 16,1902; 1 from Alfred
Cogniaux, Jan. 22, 1904; 2 from W.G. Farlow, Sept. 11,1903 and June 23, 1908; 2
from Henry Pittier, July 30, 1902 and Sept. 26,1902. Hand drawn map of Cocos
Island by Henry Pittier. Miscellaneous notes, in Robinson's hand, in pencil on 5 sheets of newsprint.
11. (small folder) Note stating that ms of H. Pittier on Cocos Island sent to him on May
9, 1910, at his request. Manuscript on Musci, Fungi and Lichens in W.G. Farlow's hand,
17pp., similar but not identical to those sections in Robinson's Flora of the Galapagos
12. (small folder) Loose notes on plants of Cocos Island; a
section of a draft with pages numbered 0-20; notes that appear to be addenda to the draft. All in B.L. Robinson's hand.
13. (small folder) "Copied and
dead ms. Cocos Isl." in B. L. Robinson's hand.
14. Paper read at American Academy inn winter of 1918-1919. Note says:
"Not otherwise published and of no value except as including popular illustrations of practical value of plant classification.: 12pp., typed.
15. "Notes and fragments designed for publication but withheld (S Car & Va)
(Mikania of S Am. Etc.)"
16. Eupatorium. Mexico-Panama. "Provisional list long virtually useless, but possibly may recall some names that
might be overlooked." 11pp., typed.
17. "Important Memoranda etc. about Eupatorieae.: Includes
memoranda of [David?] Potter, 1 page; 6 photos of herbarium specimens with notes
by S.F. Balke, 1925; list of Eupatoroids in Santiago Museum, in Ivan
Johnston's handwriting, 1926; etc.
Eupatorieae of Ecuador. Sent to Diels May 24, 1935." ms, in
19. "Eupatorieae -
ms held over. " on E. tequendamense and E. bullescens,
7 pp., typed and handwritten. "Memoranda about Macbride's
photographs." "Comments on Macbride's Berlin
photographs" [of Eupatorium specimens], 4 pp., ms.
20. "Eupatorium: Key to Central American Sp." 28 pp., mostly typed.
21. "Eupatorium: Key to Mexican
Species." 25 pp.,
typed and ms.
22. Drafts of
miscellaneous descriptions in folder labeled "To be typed" 9 pp. "Mikania of Brazil (preliminary key June 19, 1934), 5pp., ms. "Grounds for the Reduction of Kanimia." 12 pp., ms.
24. "The Stevias of Uruguay" and "Key to the Uruguayan Species of Stevia," 4pp. "Stevia: Key to Species in Brazil (unfinished)" 8 pp.
25. " A provisional Key to Stevia...prepared as an
aid to study at foreign herbaria during the journey planned for the summer of
1927." Added note: " This key, drawn up very hurriedly
and merely as an aid to further study, has in most of its distinction been superseded by far more
carefully drawn keys in my revisions of Stevias of Argent., Paraguay, N.Am., Columbia,Venez., Ecuad., Peru and Boliv. It should not
be published under any circumstance. B. L. Robinson
Oct.1934." 34 typed pages with pencil annotations. bound in hard covers.
Folder containing correspondence and notes pertaining to corrections of Gray's Manual, 7th edition.
27. Folder containing certificate of admission to Harvard (1884), certificates pertaining to his studies in Germany, notices of appointment and salary from Harvard, and letters announcing various memberships and awards. 34 items, arranged chronologically.
28. Packet of certificates, diplomas, etc. less than 16" x 20". Contains 12 items, 1878-1934,
arranged chronologically, including certificate of graduation from public schools of Bloomington, Ill., and list of courses taken in Germany.
29. Certificates, diplomas, etc.
larger than 16" x 20" . Contains 6 items: certificate of Harvard B.A., 1887; two copies of certificate of doctoral degree, 1889; certificate of
election as corporate member of Boston Society of Natural History, 1895; certificate of election as corresponding
member of Massachusetts Horticultural Society; and certificate of election as corresponding member Institut Genevois, 1928.