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COLLECTION Identifier: ecb00004

Richard Evans Schultes papers

Scope and content

This collection contains correspondence, research notes, manuscripts and other publication material, printed matter, collecting lists, plant identification and classification lists and notes, maps, photographic material, prints, and clippings pertaining to Schultes’s field work and research. The bulk of the collection is photographic material and research notes on rubber and ethnobotany.


  • 1925-2003


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research by appointment with the following exceptions: Harvard University records are restricted for 50 years; Harvard personnel and student records are closed for 80 years. Some restrictions have been noted in the finding aid. Other records may need to be evaluated by archives staff in advance.

The following files are restricted:
  1. Series I. Correspondence. Box 1, folder 15: Lipp, Frank J., 1973-1980.
  2. Series I. Correspondence. Box 1, folder 21: Plotkin, Mark J., 1981-1991. This file is closed for 80 years.
  3. Series I. Correspondence A-Z. Box 1, folders 33-36. [Contact repository about individual correspondents]
  4. Series I. Correspondence. Box 1 folder, 37. Personal, 1925-1996.
  5. Series I. Correspondence. Box 1, folder 38. Unidentified correspondence, 1956-1997.
  6. Series I. Correspondence. Box 1, folder 39: Administrative correspondence, 1967-1987.
  7. Series VIII. Biographical and administrative material. Box 4, folders 11-15 are restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Audio and moving image materials are restricted and are subject to preservation evaluation and migration prior to access. Please contact for additional information.

The original Peyote scrapbook binding is restricted due to fragility. Photocopies of the scrapbook are in Box 4, folder 9 and the original photographs are in Box 4, folder 9A. The photocopies and original photographs are not restricted.


5.4 linear feet (4 cartons, 2 document boxes, 1/2 width document box, 3 card file boxes, 2 lantern slide boxes, and 3 oversize folders)

Biographical note

Richard Evans Schultes was born on January 12, 1915, in Boston, Massachusetts. He attended public schools before entering Harvard University in 1933. Schultes intended to pursue medicine but shifted his focus after taking a course in economic botany with Oakes Ames during his junior year. Schultes completed his A.B. in 1937 and went on to complete A.M. and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard in 1938 and 1941, respectively.

After receiving his doctorate Schultes accepted a position as a research associate at the Harvard University Botanical Museum. Later that year he received a 10-month travel grant from the National Research Council to study curare in the Amazon. Schultes was working in the field when he learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequent American entry into World War II. He immediately traveled to the American Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia, to enlist. With Asian rubber plantations under Japanese control, Schultes was instructed to remain in the Amazon and utilize his botanical expertise to find alternative sources of rubber for the Allied Forces.

Over the next 12 years Schultes worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry and collected approximately 3,500 specimens of the Hevea rubber tree. In 1942 he was also awarded a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation to conduct ethnobotanical research. Most of his time in the Amazon was spent with indigenous tribes from whom he learned medicinal and economic uses of plants.

Schultes returned to Harvard in 1953 to become curator of the Oakes Ames Orchid Herbarium but traveled frequently to the Amazon basin. In 1958 he was appointed curator of ethnobotany at the Harvard University Botanical Museum. He held this position until 1967 when he became executive director. From 1970 until 1985 Schultes was director of the Museum. Beginning in 1970 he also taught classes at the Harvard Extension School. He was appointed Paul C. Mangelsdorf Professor of Natural Sciences in 1973 and Edward C. Jeffrey Professor of Biology in 1980. He was named Professor Emeritus when he retired in 1985.

Schultes married Dorothy Crawford McNeil, a professional opera singer, in 1959. They had three children: Richard, and twins Alexandra and Neil.

Schultes contributed to over 350 publications and served on editorial boards for several scientific periodicals. He was the recipient of the Tyler Ecology Prize and the World Wildlife Fund Gold Medal in 1984 and the Harvard Medal and the Linnean Medal in 1992. Three genera and over 120 species bear his name. In 1986 the government of Colombia designated a 2.2 million acre protected area “Sector Schultes” in his honor. He died in Boston on April 10, 2001.


Sequeira L. 2006. Richard Evans Schultes. Biogr. Mem. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 88:338-351.

Pfister DH, Solbrig OT, Wilson EO, Wood CE. Richard Evans Schultes: Memorial minute. Harvard Gazette, September 18, 2003.

Prance GT. 2001. Richard Evans Schultes, (12 January 1915-10 April 2001): A tribute. Econ. Bot. 55(3):347-362.

Series description

The collection is divided into 10 series:

Series I. Correspondence, 1925-1999: Contains personal and botanical correspondence from friends, colleagues, acquaintances, former students, and family; one photograph; picture postcards; greeting card.

Series II. Identification and classification notes, approximately 1935-1995: Contains notes on identification and classification as well as ethnobotanical uses of plants and collection details. Includes photocopies of collection lists, a card file, photographs, negatives, and other visual media.

Series III. Hevea research, approximately 1942-1997: Contains correspondence and research notes on the history and classification of rubber species. Includes a few clippings and plates.

Series IV. Ethnobotanical research, approximately 1970-1995: Contains research material and notes on plant species and their medicinal uses. Includes visual media.

Series V. Manuscript material, 1983-20031998: Contains manuscripts and notes that appear to be first drafts of books, papers, and talks.

Series VI. Field notes, 1938-1982: Contains notebooks, collecting lists, and specimen labels relating to plant collections of Schultes and his colleagues.

Series VII. Maps, 1930-1984: Contains published and hand-drawn maps of South America and the Amazon River basin relating to Schultes’s work and interests in the area.

Series VIII. Biographical and administrative material, 1946-2003: Contains biographical sketches, clippings, correspondence, photographic material, and paper ephemera pertaining to Schultes’s life and administration of the Harvard Botanical Museum.

Series IX. Photographic material, approximately 1931-1995: Contains photographs, negatives, glass and plastic 35mm slides, glass lantern slides, a scrapbook, and original artwork. Images are of plant specimens and Schultes’s time in South America. Many images in this series were used in Schultes’s publications; some are marked for reproduction.

Series X. Audiovisual material: Contains cassette tapes, VHS tapes, CDs, and diskettes.


The bulk of the collection was transferred to the archives when Schultes retired in 1988. Additional materials were left in his office and transferred to the archives at various times.

In 2001 library staff photocopied 9 field notebooks that were the property of Dorothy Schultes. The photocopies were later integrated into the collection.

Correspondence between Schultes and William A. Emboden was given to Harvard on long-term deposit as part of the Julio Santo Domingo collection in 2012. It is filed with Series I. Correspondence.

Digitization note

Some photographs have been digitized but are not available online. They are described in the finding aid. For more information contact

Related Materials

Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria:

  1. Botany Libraries photograph collection
  2. Richard Evans Schultes oral history, 1993. Oral History Schultes. Archives of the Economic Botany Herbarium of Oakes Ames, Harvard University.
Published maps in Botany Libraries, some likely owned by Schultes, others related by subject.
  1. Grafico referente a la habitacion popular Colombiana. Documentacion y proyecto de Luis Alberto Acuña ; dibujo de Enrique Izquierdo. Instituto Colombiano de Antropología. / [Bogotá] : Instituto Colombiano de Antropologia. (Map Case 86). Cataloged record Hollis number: 990149166250203941.
  2. [Map of Vaupés Commisary, Republic of Colombia]. /Lambert, Michael / [1965]. (Map Case 86). Cataloged record Hollis number: 99153861520303941.
  3. Provincia de Esmereldas. (Map Case 85). This map is part of a larger publication titled: Nuevas contribuciones al conocimiento de la provincia de Esmeraldas. Tomo 1 attributed to M. Acosta Solís. Quito, Ecuador, 1944. Cataloged record Hollis number:990037952960203941. Gift of RE Schultes, 1974.
  4. Rio Amazonas : plano topografico de la frontera Colombo-Peruana. Levantado por la Comisión Mixta Demarcadora de Límites, Bogata : Litografia Colombia, 1930. (Map Case 86). Catalog record Hollis number: 990149159440203941.
  5. S.A-21 Santarém, 1930. [Map of Hispanic America]. American Geographical Society of New York / Provisional ed. / New York : American Geographical Society [1920-1956]. (Map Case 80). Catalog record Hollis 990143052260203941.
  6. Tapaua River [Brazil]. U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey [cartographer] / First edition. / Washington, D.C. : Aeronautical Chart Service / (World aeronautical chart ; 1013), [1945]. (Map Case 81). Catalog record Hollis number: 99153837999003941.
  7. Time-compass-canoe survey. Wild Rubber Selection Programme. /Schultes, Richard Evans / United States : Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineering. (Map Case 86). Catalog record Hollis number: 99153861520203941.
  8. Ucayali River [Peru].U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey [cartographer] / Advance edition. / Washington, D.C. : Aeronautical Chart Service / (World aeronautical chart ; 1012). [1944]. (Map Case 85). Catalog record Hollis number: 99153837998403941.

Other related material at Harvard University: Papers of Richard Evans Schultes [accessions], 1952-1997, Harvard University Archives; Harvard Botanical Museum 16mm Film Collection , ca. 1943-1978. Harvard Film Archive, Fine Arts Library, Harvard University.

Separated Materials

One blueline plan of the Cambridge Electron Accelerator was removed from Series I. Correspondence, Cambridge Electron Accelerator file on May 5, 2023 and transferred to Harvard's Property Information Resource Center . The cover letter that accompanied the plan was retained and is in this file.

Processing Information

Processed by Zachary Bodnar and Keiko Nishimoto, 2017. Revised by Danielle Castronovo, 2023.

Schultes, Richard Evans, 1915-2001. Richard Evans Schultes papers, 1925-2003: A Guide.
Botany Libraries, Economic Botany Library of Oakes Ames, Harvard University.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Economic Botany Library of Oakes Ames, Harvard University Repository

The Harvard University Herbaria houses five research libraries that are managed collectively as the Botany Libraries.The Economic Botany Library specializes in materials related to economic botany or the commercial exploitation of plants. The Archives of the Economic Botany Herbarium of Oakes Ames houses unique resources including personal papers, institutional records, field notes and plant lists, expedition records, photographs, original artwork, and objects from faculty, curators, staff, and affiliates of the Economic Botany Herbarium.

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