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COLLECTION Identifier: arn00014

Richard Alden Howard papers

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of field notes, articles, correspondence, photographs, biographical information, research notes, unpublished botanical illustrations, ephemera, an oral history interview with Howard and personal effects.


  • 1940-1998


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research by appointment. Researchers must register and provide one form of valid photo identification. Please contact for additional information.


12 linear feet

Biographical note

Richard Alden Howard was born on July 1, 1917, in Stamford, Connecticut, and grew up in Warren, Ohio. He graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1938. That fall he accepted a position as a technician for plant anatomist, Irving Widmer Bailey, at Harvard University. Howard also attended classes and was awarded a fellowship to support his graduate studies. He completed M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard in 1940 and 1942.

In 1942 Howard joined the Army Air Corps and was eventually stationed at Randolph Field, Texas, where he taught survival skills to soldiers headed to the Pacific Theater. He was soon asked to head the new Jungle Survival Program at the U.S. Air Force School of Applied Tactics in Orlando, Florida. In 1947 he was awarded the Legion of Merit from the Air Force for this work.

Howard married Elizabeth “Betty” Solie in 1944 in San Antonio, Texas. They had four children: Jean Elizabeth, Barbara Jo, Bruce Richard, and Philip George. After his discharge from the Army in 1946 he held various teaching and curatorial positions before returning to Harvard as an assistant professor in 1948. Howard was appointed director of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, in 1954. He retained this position for 24 years, during which time he was also Professor of Dendrology.

Howard’s research focused on plant anatomy and plant systematics. He was particularly interested in Caribbean flora. His many research trips culminated in “Flora of the Lesser Antilles,” published in six volumes between 1974 and 1989. In addition to his work at Harvard, he worked with aluminum companies in the Caribbean and Hawaii to develop revegetation techniques for strip-mined areas. He also collaborated with doctors at the National Institutes of Health to develop cancer medicines from plants.

Howard received many distinctions throughout his career, including the American Horticultural Society’s Liberty Hyde Bailey Award in 1978. He published over 300 papers and 13 monographs in his lifetime. Betty supported his work, accompanying him on his travels and co-authoring and editing many of his papers. Howard died on September 18 2003, at his home in Cohasset, Massachusetts.


Warnement JA, Carroll EW. 2004. Richard Alden Howard 1917-2003. Rhodora. 106(926): 178-184.


The collection was transferred to the archives after Howard passed away in 2003.

Processing Information

This collection is partially processed.

Howard, Richard A. (Richard Alden). Richard Alden Howard papers, 1940-1998: A Guide.
Botany Libraries, Arnold Arboretum Library (Cambridge), Harvard University.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Arnold Arboretum Library (Cambridge), Harvard University Repository

The Harvard University Herbaria houses five research libraries that are managed collectively as the Botany Libraries. The Arnold Arboretum Library in Cambridge specializes in the identification and classification of Old World plants with emphasis on Asia. The Archives of the Arnold Arboretum (Cambridge) houses unique resources, primarily field notes related to the plant specimens housed in Cambridge.

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