Eastwood, Alice, 1859-1953

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1859
Death 1953-10-30

Biographical notes:

Eastwood was curator and later head of the Department of Botany at the California Academy of Sciences, 1849-1949. She was responsible for saving the Academy's type collection after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. While at the Academy, she carried out much collecting to build up the collection, published over 300 articles, and started a journal, Leaflets of Western botany. Her main botanical interests were west American Liliaceae and the genera Lupinus, Arctostaphylos and Castilleja.

From the description of Manuscripts relating to lupines, 1938-1946 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 41078423

Alice Eastwood was a Canadian American botanist. Born in Toronto, she moved to the United States at 14, and from age twenty to thirty, was a teacher in Denver, Colorado and taught herself botany. In 1890 she assumed a post in the herbarium at the California Academy of Sciences. Eastwood was given a position as joint Curator of the Academy with Katherine Brandegee in 1892. By 1894, with the retirement of Brandegee, Eastwood was promoted to Curator and Head of the Department of Botany, a position she held until she retired in 1949. Eastwood was credited with saving the Academy's type plant collection after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Opposing curatorial conventions of her era, Eastwood segregated the type specimens from the main collection. This classification system permitted her, upon entering the burning building, to readily retrieve 1500 specimens.

From the description of Alice Eastwood collection, [1942?]-1953. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 438323700

Biographical note

Alice Eastwood was born to Colin Skinner Eastwood and Eliza Jane Gowdey Eastwood on January 19, 1859, in Toronto Canada. The family moved to Denver, Colorado in 1873 and Alice Eastwood went on to graduate as valedictorian from Shawa Convent Catholic High School in 1879. For the next ten years, Eastwood would teach at her alma mater, forgoing a college education. Using Grey’s Manual and the Flora of Colorado, Alice Eastwood would use this time to teach herself botany, going on various collecting trips during her vacations.

In 1891, after reviewing Eastwood’s collection in Denver, Mary Katharine Brandegee, Curator of the Botany Department at the California Academy of Sciences, invited Eastwood to assist in the Academy’s Herbarium. This would be the beginning of Alice Eastwood’s long and fruitful career at the Academy of Sciences. The following year, Alice Eastwood would become joint Curator of the Botany Department at the Academy, alongside Mary Katharine Brandegee. Brandegee’s retirement in 1894 resulted in Alice Eastwood becoming the sole Curator and Head of the Botany Department at the Academy. Eastwood completed many trips at this time and collected and discovered a number of plants on the California coast.

Against conventional practices of the time, Eastwood segregated type specimens from the main collection. This would prove to be an ingenious practice after the San Francisco 1906 earthquake and fire. After the earthquake, Eastwood went to the Academy and found the building deeply damaged. With the help of Robert Porter, Alice Eastwood was able to save 1,497 type specimens from the impending fire that was devouring the city and that was already burning the neighboring building. The fire would go on to destroy most of the Academy’s collections.

Afterwards, Alice Eastwood traveled and studied throughout Europe and the United States. She eventually returned to the Academy as Curator of the Botany Department. She dedicated herself to rebuilding the collection and her expeditions were numerous, including collecting trips to Alaska, Arizona, Baja California, British Columbia, Utah, and all throughout California. By 1942, the collection numbered over 300,000 plant specimens, nearly three times the number destroyed in 1906 earthquake and fire.

After 50 years of service to the Academy, Eastwood retired in 1950 at the age of ninety. Her inexhaustible career included the publication of over 300 articles, numerous books, and eight plant species of which were named after her. Along with John Thomas Howell, she founded the journal, Leaflets of Western Botany, served as editor for Zoe, helped to form the American Fuchsia Society, and worked to save a redwood grove in Humboldt County (which was named Alice Eastwood Memorial Grove). And so, at the age 94, on October 30, 1953, Alice Eastwood died in San Francisco, ending a prolific career at the California Academy of Sciences.

Sources Consulted: The Memoirs of Alice Eastwood, Earthquake (Chapter VI).

"A Partial Gazateer and Chronology of Alice Eastwood's Botanical Explorations," by Carol Wilson.

“Miss Alice Eastwood,” American Fuchsia Society, Vol. 25, No. 12, December 1, 1953.

Alice Eastwood biography, Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.huh.harvard.edu/libraries/archives/EASTWOOD.html

Chronology

  • 1859: Born in Toronto, Ontario, to Colin Skinner Eastwood and Eliza Jane Gowdey Eastwood
  • 1879: Graduates as valedictorian from Shawa Convent Catholic High School
  • 1891: Moves to California as herbarium assistant to Mrs. Katherine Brandegee
  • 1892: Appointed Joint Curator of Botany (with Katherine Brandegee) at the California Academy of Sciences
  • 1895: Becomes Curator and Head of the Department of Botany
  • 1906: Saves 1,497 California Academy of Sciences botany specimens from the San Francisco fire
  • 1914: Expedition to Alaska
  • 1917: Elected life member of California Academy of Sciences
  • 1942: Elected Honorary member of California Academy of Sciences
  • 1950: Serves as Honorary President of the VIIth International Botanical Congress in Sweden
  • 1953: Dies in San Francisco

From the guide to the Eastwood (Alice) papers, 1859-1981, (California Academy of Sciences, Special Collections)

Alice Eastwood was born on Jan. 19, 1859, in Toronto, Ont. She attended public schools and a convent school in Canada; in 1873 her family moved to Denver, Col., and she attended public schools there, graduating from high school in 1879. For the next ten years she taught school, collecting plants and teaching herself botany at the same time. Having saved enough money to leave teaching, Miss Eastwood planned to devote herself to botanical study. A visit to the California Academy of Sciences in 1891 led to her being offered a curatorial position the following year. She accepted and in 1894 was advanced to Curator and Head of the Department of Botany, a position she kept until her retirement in 1949, at the age of ninety. She was responsible for saving the Academy's type collection after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. For some years after the earthquake, before the Academy had constructed a new building, she studied in herbaria in Europe and other parts of the U.S., including the Gray Herbarium. While at the Academy, she carried out much collecting to build up the collection, published over 300 articles, and started a journal, Leaflets of Western Botany. Her main botanical interests were west American Liliaceae and the genera Lupinus, Arctostaphylos and Castilleja. She died in San Francisco on Oct. 30, 1953.

References: MacFarland, F. M., with R. C. Miller and John Thomas Howell. "Biographical Sketch of Alice Eastwood." Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, 4th series, 25: ix-xiv, bibliography xv-xxiv. Howell, John Thomas. "Alice Eastwood." Taxon 3 (1954): 98-100.

From the guide to the Manuscripts relating to lupines, c.1938-1946, (Gray Herbarium Library)

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Subjects:

  • California Academy of Sciences--Curators
  • Lupines
  • Wild flowers
  • California Academy of Sciences--History
  • Women scientists--Photographs
  • Legumes
  • San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, Calif., 1906
  • California Academy of Sciences--Scientists
  • California Academy of Sciences--Expeditions
  • Women botanists
  • Scientists
  • Botanists--Portraits
  • Botany--Pictorial works
  • Flowers
  • Natural history museum curators
  • California Academy of Sciences--Employees
  • Botanists
  • Botanists--California--Archives
  • Trusts and trustees
  • California Academy of Sciences--Buildings
  • Women in science

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (Calif.) (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)