The Botany Department was founded as part of the California Academy of Natural Sciences in 1853. Our collections have since expanded due to the addition of the Dudley Herbarium in the 1960s and the continued work of our dedicated curators and collectors. 



The Early Years

The early herbarium (now CAS) included specimens collected by Dr. Albert Kellogg, a medical practitioner and one of the founders of the Academy. Over the next fifty years, Kellogg's collections were augmented by the collections of Dr. John Allen Veatch, Dr. Hans Herman Behr (author of the first flora of San Francisco), William G.W. Harford, Dr. Gustav Eisen, Dr. Katherine Layne Curran Brandegee, and Miss Alice Eastwood. These early collections of California, Oregon, Alaska, Baja California, and other parts of western North America were some of the most important of their day.


The Big Fire

By the early 1900's, the Academy's herbarium collection was extensive. However, most of what we know about that early collection comes from publications of the period. The Academy's Market Street building was destroyed by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and resulting fire. In a classic tale of heroism the CAS curator, Alice Eastwood, rescued nearly 1500 specimens, mostly types, from the damaged and burning building. These specimens, plus some specimens that were out on loan at the time of the earthquake, and nearly 3,000 specimens collected by Alban Stewart during the Academy's 1905 and 1906 Galapagos excursion became the foundation for the Academy's current collection.



During the tenure of John Thomas Howell, the collections doubled in size, due to his active collecting in California and the Galapagos as well as the collections of his collaborators. Elizabeth McClintock, among other achievements, was responsible for the fine collections of ornamental plants. Dennis Breedlove was an active collector in Mexico, especially Baja California and Chiapas.


The Dudley Herbarium is Added

In the 1960s, as a result of Stanford University's decision to dismantle its natural history collections, arrangements were made to integrate the Stanford's Dudley Herbarium (DS) with the herbarium of the California Academy of Sciences (CAS). The integration was overseen by Dr. Alva Day and took 10 years to complete. Although each voucher continues to carry distinguishing identification, DS and CAS are now housed as a single unit and financed and curated by Academy staff.


History of the Dudley Herbarium

The Dudley Herbarium of Stanford University (DS) dates to 1891 when Douglas Houghton Campbell began teaching systematic botany at Stanford. He was joined a year later by William Russell Dudley. Dudley collected vascular plants, fungi, and lichens throughout California. His collections, including those he brought from Cornell, collections of students, and a set of duplicates acquired from the herbarium of William Harvey (focusing on Australia, the Cape region of South Africa, and cultivated material from botanical gardens of Europe, dating to 1758) became the Dudley Herbarium collection. Other notable staff in DS's history were Dr. LeRoy Abrams, Ms. Roxana S. Ferris, Dr. Ira L. Wiggins, and Dr. John Hunter Thomas.

A more detailed account of the History of Botany at the California Academy of Sciences, written by Tom Daniel, PhD and Curator, can be found at the following link:

One Hundred and Fifty Years of Botany at the California Academy of Sciences (1853–2003)


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Collections inquiries:
Emily Magnaghi
Collection Manager
California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Dr.
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 379-5392