From Dresden to Dryden: The Life and Times of Frederick Pursh


Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - 7:00pm to Thursday, February 18, 2016 - 6:45pm




Unitarian Church Annex, Buffalo St Entrance, Ithaca


Joseph M. McMullen, Environmental Consultant/Botanist AND Catherine L Landis, Syracuse ESF


Frederick Traugott Pursh was a German-born botanist. He had little formal training, but worked at the Dresden Botanical Gardens.  He came to America in 1799 and ended up working for Dr. Benjamin Barton in Philadelphia.  Barton was a friend of Thomas Jefferson, who commissioned the Lewis and Clark expedition.  In early 1807, Merriweather Lewis commissioned Pursh to name and describe the plants he had collected on the expedition.  Pursh put the work aside to make a botanical exploration trip up through Pennsylvania into central New York and easterly to Rutland, Vermont.  He walked for hundreds of miles, including right through Ithaca.  He spent over a month in central NY and made some interesting botanical  discoveries.  He kept a journal where he recorded his daily collections, the weather, and other interesting facts.  Unfortunately, Pursh's Journal was not discovered and published until 1869, nearly 50 years after his death.  Pursh went on to publish Flora Americae Septentrionalis or A Systematic Arrangement and Description of the Plants of North America in 1814.  Pursh was a hard working botanical pioneer; he was an energetic plant collector whose life was filled with great botanical discoveries, some questionable scientific practices, hard luck, and a destitute end.  

Joe will describe Pursh's life, career, accomplishments, vignettes, foibles and talents, travels in general-- Catherine will focus more specifically on his time in Central New York and the implications of his northern journey botanically, socially, historically, and otherwise.