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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00044

Josiah Hale plant descriptions

Scope and Content

In 1852 the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal published an abridged version of the manuscript, entitled “Catalogus florae Ludovicianae.” An annotated copy of this article is held in the Gray Herbarium Library (call number: FL 73 R43 (3)). It bears a note in Sereno Watson’s handwriting: “The MSS. of ‘Plants of Louisiana,’ now in Herb. Gray, differs only in having the localities, with descriptions of the ‘new species,’ which with the accompanying figures or specimens are in place in the herbarium.” A tipped-in fragment of manuscript was identified by Joseph Ewan in 1959 as being in Riddell’s handwriting and “surely was removed from original ms. sent to Smiths. Inst. for publication, rejected, sent to Gray and cut and inserted here or occ. in herb." Nine pages of manuscript are bound at the end of the article containing lists of Hale’s Cyperaceae and Gramineae in Watson’s handwriting. According to Ewan the lists may have been copied from Riddell’s original manuscript prepared for the Smithsonian.

This collection consists of 13 manuscript pages attributed to Josiah Hale. It contains descriptions of Cyperaceae and Gramineae corresponding to the species marked as new or questionable on Watson’s 9-page list. The descriptions appear to be unpublished.


  • circa 1851


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0.1 linear feet (1 folder)


Josiah Hale was born in Franklin County, Virginia around 1791 and soon after the turn of the century moved with his family to Harrodsburg, Kentucky. He studied medicine at Transylvania College from 1821 to 1822 and was a private pupil of naturalist Constantine Samuel Rafinesque. Hale moved to Port Gibson, Mississippi to practice medicine after completing his degree. In 1825 he left Port Gibson for Alexandria, Louisiana where he opened a new practice. In 1834 Hale gave up medicine in order to pursue his botanical interests full time. He married widow Martha Crain in 1838; they had two daughters.

In 1845 Hale took a position as a clerk in the District Court of Alexandria after losing a significant amount of money in a financial crash. He continued to study the local flora and correspond with other botanists and eventually returned to medicine in 1849. In 1850 he moved to New Orleans where he worked with John Riddell to establish the New Orleans Academy of Sciences. He moved to Canton, Mississippi in 1855 but returned to New Orleans the following year to seek treatment for heart disease. He died in New Orleans on July 21, 1856.

John Leonard Riddell was born on February 20, 1807, in Leyden, Massachusetts and soon after moved with his family to Preston, New York. He earned both B.A. and M.A. degrees from the Rensselaer Institute and spent the next few years traveling and lecturing. In 1835 he accepted a position teaching chemistry and botany at the Cincinnati Medical College. Riddell was awarded an M.D. from Cincinnati in 1836 and appointed chair of the chemistry department at the Medical College of Louisiana. He moved to New Orleans that summer and remained there until his death on October 7, 1865.


Bailey LH. 1883. Some North American botanists. VIII. John Leonard Riddell. Bot. Gaz. 8(8):269-271.

Ewan J. 1977. Josiah Hale, M.D., Louisiana botanist, Rafinesque’s pupil. J. Soc. Bibliogr. Nat. Hist. 8(3):235-243.


Riddell submitted a manuscript on plants of Louisiana, prepared with the help of W.M. Carpenter and Josiah Hale, to the Smithsonian Institution in 1851. The Smithsonian declined to publish the manuscript, which Riddell then sent to Asa Gray. Riddell may have included the Josiah Hale descriptions when he sent the rejected manuscript to Gray.

Processing Information

Processed by Lynn McWhood

Hale, Josiah, approximately 1791-1856. Josiah Hale plant descriptions, circa 1851: A Guide.
Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University Repository

The Harvard University Herbaria houses five research libraries that are managed collectively as the Botany Libraries. The Gray Herbarium Library specializes in the identification and classification of New World plants with emphasis on North American plants. The Archives of the Gray Herbarium 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 Gray Herbarium.

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