Joseph Francis Charles Rock (1884-1962) papers, 1922-1962.
General Physical Description note
2 cartons, 9 boxes, 9 volumes, 2 binders, and 3 oversize folders.
Terms of Access
Photocopies may be made at the discretion of the Arnold Arboretum Archives staff. Permission to make photocopies does not constitute permission to reproduce or publish materials outside the bounds of the fair use guidelines.
Extent6.75 linear feet
Continuing a fifty-year Arnold Arboretum tradition of sending plant explorers to Asia, it was an elderly Charles S. Sargent (1841-1927), the first director of the Arnold Arboretum, who initiated Joseph Rock's expedition to northwestern China and northeastern Tibet in 1924. Seeking bird specimens from this area, the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology cooperated in the project, which lasted from 1924-27. Sargent's assignment to Rock was to collect plants and to photograph specimens along the Yellow River (Hwangho) and in the mountain ranges Amne Machin (Che-shih-shan) and the Richtofen (Chi-lien shan-mo). Rock also collected along the Yangtze River, the Kansu-Szechuan border, in the Tebbu region in southwestern Kansu, and around the Koki Nor Lake in northeastern Tibet.
On this 1924 expedition, Rock collected 20,000 herbarium specimens and many packages of propagative material. Although few new species were found, Rock lived up to Sargent's principal objective, which was to collect hardier forms of species that had already been collected by others farther south. The Arboretum distributed the seeds Rock collected to botanical and horticultural institutions in North America and in Europe. Rock also took numerous photographs and, independently, studied the cultures and languages of the local tribes. From 1927, Rock continued his work in China for various institutions. He was a research fellow at the Harvard Yenching Institute between 1945 and 1950, where he published his linguistic research.
In 1949, the political situation forced Rock's departure from China. In 1962, while living in Hawaii, a heart attack took the life of Joseph Rock, a world-renowned personality.
Sources: "J.F. Rock, 1884-1962" by Alvin K. Chock (Honolulu) Taxon 12 (3 (April 1963) p.89-102; Charles Sprague and the Arnold Arboretum by S. B. Sutton, Harvard University Press 1970, p.267-275; The Turbulent Career of Joseph Rock, botanist, explorer by S. B. Sutton, New York: Hastings House, 1974; Lamas, Princes, and Brigands: Joseph Rock's photographs of the Tibetan borderlands of China by Michael Aris, New York: China House Gallery, China Institute in America, 1992, pp.14-15. See also “Bodies Real and Virtual: Joseph Rock and Enrico Caruso in the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands” by Erik Mueggler Comparative Studies in Society and History 2011;53(1):6–37.
- Joseph Francis Charles Rock (1884-1962) papers, 1922-1962: Guide.
- Finding aid prepared by Liz Francis
- Language of description
- EAD ID
Part of the Arnold Arboretum Archives Repository
The Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library is a specialized collection devoted to the study of temperate woody plants. We collect works on botany, horticulture, floras, urban forestry and taxonomy. The library contains more than 25,000 volumes and 40,000 photographs, and includes an archive that both documents the Arboretum's history and is a repository for 19th, 20th, and 21st century horticultural and botanical collections.
Jamaica Plain MA 02130 USA