Dudley, William Russel, 1849-1911

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1849-03-01
Death 1911-06-04

Biographical notes:

Professor of botany, Stanford University; graduate (B.S., M.S.) of Cornell University; instrumental in establishing the first preserve of redwood trees in California and creating the Dudley Herbarium which was moved from Stanford to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco in 1976; originally of Guilford, Conn.

From the description of Papers, 1815-1983. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70952206

William Russel Dudley earned his bachelor's (1874) and master's (1876) degrees in botany at Cornell University; after graduation he pursued botanical study in Strassburg and Berlin. He taught at Cornell and Indiana University before joining the Stanford faculty in 1892. Once at Stanford, his work focused on California flora, with a special interest in the study of trees; he was instrumental in the establishment of the Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

From the description of William Russel Dudley papers, 1838-1937 (inclusive), 1864-1912 (bulk). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122500434

Biographical & Historical Sketch

William Russel Dudley earned his bachelor's (1874) and master's (1876) degrees in botany at Cornell University; after graduation he pursued botanical study in Strassburg and Berlin. He taught at Cornell and Indiana University before joining the Stanford faculty in 1892. Once at Stanford, his work focused on California flora, with a special interest in the study of trees; he was instrumental in the establishment of the Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

[Reprinted from SCIENCE, N.S., Vol. XXXIV., No. 866, Pages 142- 145, August 4, 1911]

William Russel Dudley, professor of systematic botany in Stanford University, was born on a farm in North Guilford, Conll., on :iUarch 1, 1849, and died at Los Altos, Cal., on June 4, 1911. The fact that the writer has been intimately associated with Professor Dudley since the day he entered the freshman class at Cornell University, in September, 1870, will perhaps excuse the personal element in this little sketch. The word" instructor" as a technical term, describing a minor assistant to a professor, had just then been invented, and the present writer had just been appointed "instructor in botany" under Professor Albert N. Prentiss.

One day, Professor Henry T. Eddy, now of Minnesota, brought to me a tall, well-built, handsome and refined young man, older and more mature than most freshmen, and with more serious and definite purposes. Young Dudley had an intense delight in out-door things and especially in flowers and birds. He wanted to be a botanist, and had turned from old Yale, to which as a descendant of Chittendens, Griswolds and Dudleys he would naturally have gone, to new Cornell, because Cornell offered special advantages in science, and because at Cornell a good man could, if need be, pay his own way. For the rest of my stay at Cornell, Dudley was my room-mate, living in a cottage on the hill, built by students and termed "University Grove." In this cottage was established the boarding-club, known later and appropriately as " The Struggle for Existence," and in later and more economical times as the " Strug." For a time, Dudley paid his way by rising at four o'clockto milk cows at the farm . Later he was made botanical collector, and this congenial .work he kept up until he became my successor as instructor in botany. In college Dudley was a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity, and took an active part in holding this society to the high ideals (dikaia upotheke) on which it was originally based. He was also a charter member in the honorary scientific society of Sigma Xi (spoudon xunones).

In 1871 I went with him to his home at North Guilford, and I remember that his practical father said to me: 'There comes Willie across the fields with his hands full of flowers, just as he used to. I wonder if there is any way he can make a living by it.

Dudley graduated from Cornell in 1874, with the degree of B.S. In 1876, he received the degree of M.S., after which he spent some time in botanical study in Strassburg and Berlin. From 1872 to 1876 he was instructor in botany at Cornell, his eminent knowledge of the eastern flora overbalancing the fact that at first he had not yet received a degree. From 1876 to 1892 he was assistant professor of botany at Cornell, with a year's absence in 1880, in which he served as acting professor of biology in the University of Indiana, in the absence of the present writer, who then held that chair.

In 1892, Professor Dudley became professor of systematic botany at Stanford University, which position he held until, in January, 1911, failing health caused his retirement on the Carnegie Foundation as professor emeritus, his work being then taken by one of his students, Associate Professor Le Roy Abrams. Many of the leading botanists of the country have been students of Professor Dudley. H. E. Copeland, Kellerman, Lazenby, Branner were among his associates at Cornell. Atkins became his successor at Cornell. Abrams, Cook, Elmer, Olssen-Seffer, Cannon, Wight, E. B. Copeland, E. G. Dudley, Greeley, Herre, McMurphy and many others were under his tutelage at Stanford.

In Stanford University, Dudley was one of the most respected as well as best beloved members of the faculty. No one could come near to him without recognizing the extreme refinement of his nature; a keen intellect, an untiring joy in his chosen work, and the Puritan conscience at its best, with clear perceptions of his own duties to himself and a generous recognition of the rights and the aspirations of others.

Dudley entered with great joy into the study of the California flora. He became especially interested in the study of trees, the evolutionary relations of forms and especially the problems of geographical distribution. The conifers of California were his special delight, and he made many field trips with his students to all parts of the state, notably to the Sierra Nevada and the Sierra Santa Lucia. His extended collections were presented to Stanford University, where with the collections of Dr. Abrams they form the major part of the large" Dudley Herbarium."

A genus of stone-crops, of many species, abounding on the cliffs of California and especially on those which overhang the sea, was named Dudleay by Britton and Rose. Dudley pulverulenta is one of the most conspicuous plants in California wherever "sea and mountains meet."

Dudley was instrumental in inducing the state of California to purchase a forest of redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), that this, the second of California's giant trees, might be preserved in a state of nature. Two thousand five hundred acres in the "Big Basin" of Santa Cruz County were thus bought and established as the "Sempervirens Park." For several years Dudley served on the board of control of this park.

Of the Sierra Club of California, Dudley was a leading member and for some years a director.

As an investigator, Professor Dudley was persistent and accurate, doing his work for the love of it. A partial list of his papers is given below. A large work on the conifers of the west was long projected, but still exists only in uncompleted manuscript.

Dudley was master of a quiet and refined but effective English style. He was one of thpse scientific men, too few I fear, who have real love for literature, and who understand what poetry is and what it is about. In his early days he wrote graceful verse.

Professor Dudley's health was good until about three years ago, when he set out to study the trees of Persia. In Egypt he was attacked by a severe cold or bronchitis which ended in tuberculosis.

He was never, married.

From the guide to the William Russel Dudley papers, 1874-1913, (Dept. of Special Collections & University Archives)

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Subjects:

  • Botany
  • Education
  • Earthquakes
  • Stanford University--Faculty
  • Botany--Study and teaching
  • Botany--United States
  • Parks
  • Women
  • Redwoods
  • Agriculture
  • Forest fires
  • Revivals
  • Greek letter societies
  • Botany--United States--History
  • Mechanical engineering--Study and teaching
  • Blizzards
  • Missions, Spanish
  • Botanists
  • Forest conservation

Occupations:

  • Women missionaries--Hawaii
  • Botany teachers--California--Palo Alto
  • Soldiers--Connecticut
  • Engineering teachers--Connecticut--New Haven
  • College teachers--California--Palo Alto
  • Soldiers--United States
  • Deans (Education)--Connecticut--New Haven
  • College students--New York (State)--Ithaca

Places:

  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park (Calif.) (as recorded)
  • California--Palo Alto (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • Hawaii (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • Study and teaching--California--Palo Alto (as recorded)
  • Guilford (Conn.) (as recorded)
  • Connecticut--New Haven (as recorded)
  • Connecticut (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--Ithaca (as recorded)
  • Connecticut--Guilford (as recorded)
  • California--San Francisco (as recorded)