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COLLECTION Identifier: far00052

William Lawrence White papers

Scope and Content

The collection mostly contains William Lawrence White’s research materials, dated 1929-1962. Research materials include correspondence related to his mycological research and Farlow Herbarium business; manuscripts of articles; photographs of specimens; charts and graphs showing results of experiments; an unpublished supplement to Arthur Seymour's work, Host Index; and the William L. White Fungi Index which contains individual folders with notes on cultures from the Quartermaster Research and Development Laboratories of the U.S. Army.

Also includes Harvard teaching materials such as biology course outlines and departmental information; White's botany class examinations and notebooks from Pennsylvania State College; and correspondence, some relating to the Botanical Society of America Microbiological Section.

The manuscript, Manuscript record of fungi in herbarium of W.L. White, now deposited in the general herbarium at Farlow is digitized and linked to the finding aid.


  • 1929-1962
  • Majority of material found in 1929-1952


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research by appointment with the following exceptions: 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.

Researchers must register and provide one form of valid photo identification. Please contact for additional information.


11.5 linear feet (9 record cartons, 1 flat oversize box, 6 wood printing blocks)

Biographical note

William Lawrence White was born May 29, 1908, in Salina, Pennsylvania, and spent his childhood on his family's farm. He attended Pennsylvania State College where his professors included James W. Sinden and Frank D. Kern. He focused his studies on fungi, and he soon collected a large number of fungi for his own personal herbarium. He received a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1940.

White first began work at Harvard's Farlow Herbarium in 1940 as assistant curator of fungi. He also assisted on work for the Bibliographic Index of North American Fungi. He married Mary Rebecca Old, a graduate student at Radcliffe College, in October 1942 and they later had two children.

In 1943, White turned his efforts to helping the military deal with the problem of molds and mildews destroying supplies in tropical areas. He worked first for the Chemical Warfare Development Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later in Philadelphia for the Quartermaster Research and Development Laboratories of the U.S. Army. For a period in 1945 to 1946, he served as mycologist for the Air Technical Service Command Tropical Science Mission.

In 1948, White returned to Harvard where he served as director of the Farlow Library and Herbarium and associate professor of botany. He was instrumental in developing a working research laboratory to supplement the resources of the Farlow. White was also involved in many mycological and botanical organizations, including serving as chairman of the Microbiological Section of the Botanical Society of America. His own research resulted in a large number of publications, including monographs, on fungi and applied mycology, especially about the deterioration of textiles caused by fungi. White died on July 31, 1952, after a car accident.


Harvard University Gazette, March 14, 1953, Vol. XLVIII, Number 25, p. 175-176. Harvard University Press Release, July 31, 1952.


Gift of Mrs. William L. White.

Related Materials

The Quartermaster Culture Collection by E.T. Reese, H.S. Levinson and Mary H. Downing was published in 1950 in Farlowia: A Journal of Cryptogamic Botany, 4(1): 45-86.

Separated Materials

Some files from the William L. White Fungi Index had accompanying specimens in the Farlow Herbarium. Those files were removed from this collection and integrated into the herbarium specimen collection.

White, W. Lawrence (William Lawrence),1908-1952. William Lawrence White papers, 1929-1962, bulk 1929-1952: A Guide.
Botany Libraries, Farlow Reference Library of Cryptogamic Botany, Harvard University.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Farlow Reference Library of Cryptogamic Botany, Harvard University Repository

The Harvard University Herbaria houses five research libraries that are managed collectively as the Botany Libraries. The Farlow Reference Library of Cryptogamic Botany specializes in organisms that reproduce by spores, without flowers or seeds. The Archives of the Farlow Herbarium of Cryptogamic Botany 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 Farlow Herbarium.

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