Alice Eastwood 1859 - 1953

Renowned Canadian-American Botanist

Alice Eastwood was born in Toronto. Her family moved to Denver, Colorado in 1873. Alice proved to be a bright and capable student. She graduated from Shawa Convent Catholic High School in Denver, and for the next ten years she taught at her alma mater, foregoing a college education. She also spent time exploring the flora around her and was a self-taught botanist, referencing Grey’s Manual and Flora of Colorado.

She visited the California Academy of Sciences in 1891 and became the curator in the Academy’s Department of Biology. She oversaw tremendous growth of the Herbarium, with much expansion coming from her own activities.

Alice is remembered as an exceptional woman of her time, exploring regions of the West that made for difficult traveling, negotiating unfavourable terrain in long skirts, and even fashioning a skirt that could be buttoned in the center to form pantaloons. One unconventional act as Curator was to segregate the botanical type specimens rather than keeping them with the rest of the collection. This proved to be a prudent decision when in 1906 an earthquake caused a major fire that destroyed most of the Academy. Eastwood was able to save irreplaceable botanical types.

In 1903 she was one of only two of the few women listed in American Men of Science to be denoted by a star, considered to be among the top 25% of professionals in their discipline.

By the time she retired in 1949 at the age of 90, the Herbarium contained over 350,000 specimens and she had more than 300 publications to her name.

Alice Eastwood died in San Francisco in 1953 at the age of 94. She is remembered as an inspiring scholar and tireless advocate of Western botany. California hikers may encounter her memory in the yellow aster (Eastwoodia elegans) as well as in many members of the phlox family (genus Aliciella) which are among the plants named in her honour. There are currently seventeen species named for Alice Eastwood, as well as the genera Eastwoodia and Aliciella.

Awards & Recognition

  • Member and then Honorary Member of the California Academy of Sciences
  • Eastwood Hall of Botany at the California Academy of Sciences (in her honour)
  • Medal of Achievement, American Fuchsia Society
  • Alice Eastwood Memorial Grove, Humboldt County (in her honour)

 

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