Howard S. Irwin Records (RG4)

Archives, The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
200th Street and Kazimiroff Boulevard
Bronx, New York 10458-5126
Phone: 718-817-8604

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This finding aid was produced in English.

Finding aid produced using NoteTab Pro

Collectors: Irwin, Howard S.
Title: Howard S. Irwin Records (RG4)
Dates: 1944-1980
Dates: bulk, 1957-1980
Quantity: 3 linear feet; 4 boxes
Call Phrase: Irwin (RG4)

Biography of Howard S. Irwin

Howard Samuel Irwin, a taxonomic botanist specializing in the study of Cassia, began his career at the NYBG in 1960 as a Research Associate and worked his way up to the position of President from 1973-1979.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1928, he received his undergraduate degree from the College of Puget Sound in 1950. A Fulbright teacher of botany and zoology at Queen’s College in British Guiana from 1952-1956, he returned to the USA to study at the University of Texas for his PhD in taxonomic botany from 1956-1960.

Dr. Irwin began his association with the NYBG as early as 1956 as a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin during which time he went to collect specimens in Brazil (primarily in 1958). He joined the staff and served as Research Associate from 1960-1963, Associate Curator from 1963-1966, Curator and Administrator of the Herbarium from 1966-1968, Head Curator from 1968-1971, Executive Director from 1971-1972 and finally as President from 1973-1979.

During his time at the NYBG, Dr. Irwin led eight expeditions to Brazil and one to Surinam between 1960-1972 and is most known for initiating the Planalto do Brasil Program for the botanical study of this isolated region of Brasil. Dr. Irwin was also responsible for administering the NYBG through its most difficult financial period.

After his departure from the Garden, Dr. Irwin was appointed Vice Chancellor of Long Island University (1980-83) and Director of Clark Botanic Garden of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (1983-1991).

Scope and Content

The Howard S. Irwin Records cover the entire period of his employment at the NYBG. There are also papers from the late 1950’s concerning the NYBG Brazilian expedition specimens, from which he helped to identify while in graduate school as well as a file called parting thoughts written to Board member Thomas Hubbard, which Dr. Irwin wished to have included with this collection. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence. Included herein are also maps, manuscripts, field notebooks, photographs and newspaper clippings. The NYBG Archives contain 20 of Dr. Irwin’s field notebooks.


The collection is organized into seven series:
Series 1: Planalto do Brasil. Arranged alphabetically.
Series 2: Lectures
Series 3: Correspondence (Subject)
Series 4: Correspondence (People)
Series 5: Dissertation


Access restrictions

This collection is open for research with permission from Mertz Library staff.


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be submitted in writing to the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Hubbard, Thomas J.
Irwin, Howard S.--Archives.
Amapa Expedition (1961).
Botanical exploration--Brazil--Amapa (State).
Botanical exploration--Brazil--Brazilian Highlands.
Botanical exploration--Suriname--Photographs.
Botany--Research Grants.
Jari River Expedition (1961).
New York Botanical Garden--History--Sources.
Plants--Brazil--Amapa (State).
Plants--Brazil--Brazilian Highlands.
Plants--Data Processing.

Related Material

New York Botanical Garden

CFN-- Collector’s Field Notebooks

RG4-- Records of the Herbarium

RG3-- Records of the Chief Executive Officer

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Records of Howard S. Irwin (RG4), Archives, The New York Botanical Garden.

Acquisition Information

This collection was transferred to the NYBG Archives.

Processing Information

Originally processed in January 2000 by Stephen Sinon. Finding aid was converted to EAD in May 2006 by Kathleene Konkle under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) PA-50678-04.

Container List


Series 1. Planalto do Brasil.

Scope and Content:

The Planalto do Brasil Project was founded and directed by Dr. Irwin from 1964 to 1972. It was a ten year collaboration between the NYBG and the Universidade de Brasilia to explore and collect in the plateau of south-central Brazil of the same name. By 1972 the program had collected over 225,000 specimens and over 30,000 numbers. Included in this series is the correspondence written and answered while on expedition, permits, budgets, supply lists, determinations and financial statements.

Folder Title Date
1.1 Barroso n.d.
1.2 Beginning phase 1964-1965
1.3 Brieger n.d.
1.4 Couceiro n.d.
1.5 Financial Statements n.d.
1.6 Fonseca n.d.
1.7 General 1969-1970
1.8 General 1971-1972
1.9 General 1973-1975
1.10 NSF Grant 1964
1.11 Onishi n.d.
1.12 Paraense n.d.
1.13 Pires n.d.
1.14 Ravenna n.d.
1.15 Santos n.d.
1.16 Souza n.d.
1.17 Specialists list n.d.
1.18 Specimen treatment n.d.
1.19 Strychnos n.d.
1.20 Trip 1968
1.21 Trip 1969
1.22 Trip 1971

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Series 2. Lectures.

Scope and Content:

These lectures were given by Dr. Irwin at a variety of events from groundbreaking ceremonies and symposia to professional societies and radio interviews. Some of them appear to be articles for publication rather than lectures but they were all labelled as such. There is also a file of various undated lectures and correspondence pertaining to lecturing.

Folder Title Date
2.1 Annual meeting 1976-77
2.2 ASC Symposium Lubbock Texas 1974
2.3 Botanical Gardens in the Decades Ahead n.d.
2.4 Bronx Council for Environmental Quality n.d.
2.5 Cary Arboretum groundbreaking 1975
2.6 Dismemberment of Cassia n.d.
2.7 Environmental Impacts of the Trans-Amazonica Highway System in Brazil n.d.
2.8 Future of Our North American Plant Heritage n.d.
2.9 Language of Botanical Gardens n.d.
2.10 Looking Ahead at the Garden n.d.
2.11 Misc. n.d.
2.12 On the Generic Status of Chamaecrista moench n.d.
2.13 Pollen Forum remarks n.d.
2.14 Species Extinction and Promethean Man n.d.
2.15 Statement about NYBG to Bronx Community Organizations 1973
2.16 Systematic Collections in the 70’s ca. 1970s
2.17 Ultimate Challenge n.d.
2.18 University of Puget Sound Arboretum groundbreaking n.d.
2.19 Weeds in the Northeast n.d.
2.20 WQXR radio interview 1972

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Series 3. Correspondence (Subject).

Scope and Content:

These subject oriented correspondence files include expedition reports, supply lists, specimen determinations, annual reports, book reviews, grant applications and manuscripts. Included are files on Cassia research in conjunction with Rupert Barneby, a Cassieae key, the early use of computers in taxonomy, Time-Life, Crowell-Collier and University of Texas publishers, the Museu Goeldi, the Smithsonian and its specimen determinations from British Guiana expeditions, photographs from the 1963 Suriname Expedition and a file of letters written to Thomas Hubbard, Board member who chaired the CEO Search Committee, entitled parting thoughts.

Folder Title Date
3.1 Amapa collections 1960
3.2 Amapa expedition reports & supply lists 1961
3.3 Annual reports 1956-66
3.4 Apoucouita n.d.
3.5 Arroyo’s determinations n.d.
3.6 Book reviews n.d.
3.7 Brazilian geography n.d.
3.8 British Guiana n.d.
3.9 Brown Wood Collection, Syracuse n.d.
3.10 Cassia n.d.
3.11 Cassieae key n.d.
3.12 College of Puget Sound n.d.
3.13 Computers in Taxonomy n.d.
3.14 Conselho Nacional de Pesquisas n.d.
3.15 Conservatory n.d.
3.16 Crowell-Collier Publishing n.d.
3.17 Cytological fixatives n.d.
3.18 Dioclea n.d.
3.19 Expedition supplies n.d.
3.20 Exploring for Plants in the Guiana Forest n.d.
3.21 Flora of Venezuela n.d.
3.22 ICSEB 1973
3.23 Illustrators n.d.
3.24 Instituto de Medicina Tropical n.d.
3.25 Lehman College n.d.
3.26 Museu Goeldi n.d.
3.27 NSF Grant Amendment 1965-67
3.28 NSF Publications Grant Proposal 1967
3.29 Nomenclature, Seattle 1969
3.30 Parting thoughts n.d.
3.31 Peer Review n.d.
3.32 Photographs n.d.
3.33 Roadside Flowers of Texas n.d.
3.34 Royal Botanic Garden Kew n.d.
3.35 Royal Society n.d.
3.36 Sigma Xi n.d.
3.37 Smithsonian application n.d.
3.38 Smithsonian British Guiana determinations n.d.
3.39 Southern Illinois University n.d.
3.40 Specimens 1958-60
3.41 Suriname photographs 1963
3.42 Time-Life Nature Library n.d.
3.43 Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southwest n.d.
3.44 University of California n.d.
3.45 Urban Trees n.d.
3.46 USDA Plant Quarantine n.d.
3.47 Vandalism n.d.
3.48 Vicosa n.d.

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Series 4. Correspondence (People).

Scope and Content:

These files contain personal correspondence from Dr. Irwin’s career at the NYBG. Important correspondants include: B. L. Turner of the University of Texas Department of Botany, William Steere, Bassett Maguire and Rupert Barneby, all of the NYBG. It should be noted that a large part of the correspondence of Dr. Irwin can also be found within the Administrative Records of the NYBG as well as the Records of the Herbarium. Alston correspondence concerns Cassia as does that of Barneby. Rogers is concerned with Manihot and the early use of computers in taxonomy. Steere is concerned mostly with financial and administrative planning. Belem is interested in Strychnos. Cowan contains Maguire’s Guianan determination lists. Tillett contains an account of the 1961 Jari River Expedition, led by Dr. Irwin, in which Walter A. Egler met his death as well as an account of the fire which ravaged Dr. Irwin’s home in New York; lists of wood samples collected in British Guiana by Stephen Tillett and a list of the drug samples collected for Ely Lilly Company.

Folder Title Date
4.1 Alston n.d.
4.2 Anchel n.d.
4.3 Ascencio n.d.
4.4 Barneby (Cassia research) n.d.
4.5 Beaman n.d.
4.6 Biringer n.d.
4.7 Blossfeld n.d.
4.8 Brieger n.d.
4.9 Cowan n.d.
4.10 Cresco n.d.
4.11 Cronquist n.d.
4.12 Dainty n.d.
4.13 Dugand n.d.
4.14 Dwyer n.d.
4.15 Eiten n.d.
4.16 Everist n.d.
4.17 Fidalgo n.d.
4.18 Fernandes, Augusto Carles n.d.
4.19 Fonseca n.d.
4.20 Harley n.d.
4.21 Holmgren n.d.
4.22 Isely n.d.
4.23 Keck n.d.
4.24 King n.d.
4.25 Koeppen n.d.
4.26 Krukoff n.d.
4.27 Langenheim n.d.
4.28 Lasseigne n.d.
4.29 Lee (proposal review) n.d.
4.30 Legrand n.d.
4.31 Lima n.d.
4.32 Liogier n.d.
4.33 Lourteig n.d.
4.34 Maguire n.d.
4.35 Mickel n.d.
4.36 Mosquin n.d.
4.37 Pabst n.d.
4.38 Patrie n.d.
4.39 Philcox n.d.
4.40 Piel n.d.
4.41 Prance n.d.
4.42 Pullen n.d.
4.43 Reis dos Santos n.d.
4.44 Rogers n.d.
4.45 Soderstrom n.d.
4.46 Souza n.d.
4.47 Sparrow n.d.
4.48 Steere n.d.
4.49 Steyermark n.d.
4.50 Teixeira n.d.
4.51 Tillett n.d.
4.52 Turner n.d.
4.53 Wasshausen n.d.

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Series 5. Dissertation.

Scope and Content:

Dr. Irwin’s original dissertation manuscript along with the comments of his advisor, Richard S. Cowan.

Folder Title Date
4.54 Dissertation n.d.

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