Department of Botany records, 1932-1978

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Duke University. Department of Botany
The Department of Botany existed at Duke from 1935 until 2000, when it joined with the Department of Zoology to re-form the Department of Biology. Collection contains assorted records from the Department of Botany, spanning from 1932 to 1978. Included are ledgers of financial records from the late 1930s, newspaper clippings from throughout the department's history, promotional materials, and committee reports from the mid 1960s.
1.2 Linear Feet
Materials in English
Collection ID:
University Archives Record Group:
25 -- Trinity College of Arts and Sciences
25 -- Trinity College of Arts and Sciences > 11 -- Biology


Scope and content:

This collection of records from the Duke University Botany Department includes a laboratory manual with class materials from Botany 1 and 2 in 1940 as well as two early account books from the time of the department's founding (1936-1940), which contain a record of wages, office supplies, general supplies, repairs, equipment, and research grants. Other materials include newpaper clippings concerning the department (1932-1978), promotional materials (1967-1977), and committee self study and curriculum reports (1963-1965).

Biographical / historical:

With the founding of Duke University in the 1920s, the Biology Department was created around a pair of Trinity College professors, Bert Cunningham, a zoologist, and Hugo Blomquist, a botanist. In 1927 they were joined by Arthur Pearse, a prominent ecologist and former president of the Ecological Society of America. Pearse added to the prestige of the department with his founding of Ecological Monographs, the first scientific journal published by Duke University Press. As the department moved to the Biology Building on the newly constructed West Campus, tensions between the botanists and zoologists led to a departmental rift. Eventually this rift led to the dissolution of the department in 1935 and the creation of the Botany Department, led by Blomquist, and the Zoology Department, led by Pearse.

The growth in the new departments was complemented by the addition of new facilities. These included the first greenhouses in 1930, the Herbarium in 1931, the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in 1934, and the Phytotron—one of the nation's first—in 1968.

After World War II, the departments gained strong reputations in the fields of ecology, physiology, and systematics. During the 1970s and 1980s, greater research emphasis was placed on botany and zoology at the cellular and molecular level. Emphasis was also placed on interdisciplinary research across the Duke campus with faculty members participating in interdepartmental graduate programs. The first one, the University Program in Genetics, was founded in 1967 and was followed by the University Program in Ecology, the Developmental Biology Program, the Cell and Molecular Biology Program, and the Bioinformatics and Genome Technology Program.

Eventually the separate Departments of Botany and Zoology began to drift back together. The two departments began co-teaching introductory biology in 1966 and offered a biology major in 1978. In 2000 the two departments dissolved and re-formed as the Department of Biology.

Description taken from: A Brief History of the Duke University Department of Botany

Acquisition information:
The Department of Botany records were received by the Duke University Archives as a transfer in 1979 and as gifts in 2018-2022.
Processing information:

Processed by: Matthew Schaefer, June 2013

Accessions described in this finding aid: A79-36, A79-121, UA2022-0021.

Portions of accession UA2018.0009 and finding aid updated by Tracy M. Jackson, July 2019.

Updated by Leah Tams, May 2022.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.

Botany -- Study and teaching
Duke University. Department of Botany


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Collection is open for research.

Terms of access:

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Department of Botany Records, University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.