Rollins, Reed C. (Reed Clark), 1911-1998

Alternative names
Birth 1911-12-07
Death 1998-04-28

Biographical notes:

Reed Clark Rollins was born in Lyman, western Wyoming on 7 December 1911, and died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on April 27, 1998. He was one of the most influential botanists of his generation.

From the description of Papers of Reed Rollins, 1940-1998 (inclusive) (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 175317158

Reed Clark Rollins (1911-1998), Director of the Gray Herbarium (1948-1978) and Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany (1954-1981) at Harvard University was one of the most important botanists in the twentieth century. He promoted the use of genetics, anatomy, and cytology to solve taxonomic problems and under his direction, Harvard University became a leader in the study of systematic and evolutionary botany.

Rollins was born in Lyman,Wyoming on December 7, 1911 to a large Mormon ranching family (twelve brothers and sisters). He entered the University of Wyoming in 1929 and majored in botany, receiving his A.B. degree with honors in 1933. He received his M.S. degree from Washington State University in 1936 and his Ph.D from Harvard University in 1940. Both his master's thesis and doctorate dissertations involved studies of the mustard genus Arabis, a genus he continued to study throughout his career.

Rollins became an assistant professor at Stanford University in January 1941. Two years later he took a temporary position as an associate geneticist to help the United States Department of Agriculture develop a plant-based rubber substitute for the Allies during World War II.

Rollins returned to Harvard University in 1948 as an associate professor and as director of the Gray Herbarium (1948-1978) where he unified the plant and library material of the five botanical institutes ( Gray Herbarium, Arnold Arboretum, Farlow Herbarium, Botanical Museum, and Harvard Forest ). These collections were later renamed the Harvard University Herbaria. In addition to Rollins' position as director, he also served as the Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany (1954-1981), the Harvard chairman of the Institute for Research in General Plant Morphology (1955-1965), chairman of the Institute of Plant Sciences (1965-1969), supervisor of the Bussey Institution (1967-1978), and chairman of the Administrative Committee of the Farlow Library and Herbarium (1974-1978).

Although Rollins' research covered many areas of taxonomy and genetics, the primary focus of his work during his sixty-year career was centered on the study of the flowering plants in the mustard family, Brassicaceae or Cruciferae.

Rollins died in 1998 at the age of eighty-seven at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Al-Shehbaz, Ihsan A. Reed Clark Rollins 1911-1998. Biographical Memoirs 78 (2000) : 3-16. Al-Shehbaz, Ihsan A. Reed Clark Rollins (7 December 1911-28 April 1998) Taxon 48 (May 1999) : 225-256.

From the guide to the Papers of Reed C. Rollins : a collection of his writings, 1957-1993 : an inventory., (Harvard University Archives)


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Ark ID:


  • Guayule
  • Cruciferae


  • Botanists


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