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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00068

Joseph Francis Charles Rock papers

Scope and Contents

The collection is mostly photocopies of materials that were transferred to the Arnold Arboretum in 2000. That material primarily consists of field notes for various botanical collections made by Rock. It also contains additional documents pertaining to his collections. There are handwritten notes made for his 1925-1927 collections, when he was collecting in China for the Arnold Arboretum. It also includes maps from his 1926 collecting trip.

There is one original manuscript in the collection and it is labeled "Plants of Iowa-Dr. Rock," which appears to be considerably older and which seems to be a checklist of Iowa flora, arranged by families and including scientific and common names.


  • 1925-1927, undated


Conditions Governing Access

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


0.2 linear feet (1 half width manuscript box)

Biographical note

Joseph Rock was born Josef Franz Karl Rock on January 13, 1884, in Vienna, Austria, to Franz and Francisca Rock (née Hofer). After his mother’s death in 1890 he was raised by his father and older sister. He attended the Vienna Schoten Gymnasium and Vienna University and left home once his formal education was complete.

Rock intended to travel to England, but missed the steamer and purchased a ticket to the United States on a whim. He arrived in New York in September 1905 and moved to Texas soon after. He studied at the University of Texas at Austin and eventually settled in Hawaii in 1907. Rock became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1913.

In 1908 Rock began working for the Division of Forestry in Hawaii as a botanical collector. He was tasked with establishing a herbarium and spent the next few years collecting plants on all of the major Hawaiian islands. His discoveries led to identifications of numerous new species. He was transferred to the College of Hawaii in 1911 and was appointed curator when the herbarium was deposited there the following year.

Between 1920 and 1949 Rock spent most of his time in Asia, primarily in Yunnan Province in southwest China. His expeditions were variously financed by Harvard University, the University of California, the National Geographic Society, the United States National Museum (part of the Smithsonian Institution), and the United States Department of Agriculture. Some of his travels were self-funded. Rock collected plant material, birds, and mammal skins for his sponsors and mapped and photographed poorly known regions. On his own he studied the cultures and languages of the tribes of Yunnan Province, particularly the Na-Khi people.

Rock was forced to leave China by the Communists in 1949. After some time in England and India, he returned to Hawaii to write about China and continue his botanical research. Rock was a member of nearly 20 scientific societies and received several awards, including honorary degrees from Vienna and Baylor Universities and the University of Hawaii. He suffered a heart attack and died in Honolulu on December 5, 1962.


Chock AK. 1963. J. F. Rock, 1884-1962. Taxon. 12(3):89-102.


The field notes from 1925-1927 likely arrived with the specimens Rock collected for the Arnold Arboretum. The provenance of the other items is unknown.

Related materials at other repositories:

Related materials at Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, MA: Joseph Francis Charles Rock (1884-1962) papers, 1922-2005.

Related materials at the Harvard Map Collection: Rock, Joseph F., and William Ekvall Simpson. Ch'ing-hai Upper Yellow River Expedition, 1925-1927. Rock's large hand drawn map of his exploration area.

Joseph Francis Charles Rock's diaries are held by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Separated Materials

Items 1-5 and 7 were photocopied and the originals were transferred to the Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, MA in 2000. The transferred materials were added to the Joseph Francis Charles Rock (1884-1962) papers, 1922-2005.

Rock, Joseph F. (Joseph Francis), 1884-1962. Joseph Francis Charles Rock papers, 1925-1927, undated: 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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