Stewart H. Burnham

(1870 - 1943)

Stewart Henry Burnham was Assistant Curator of the Wiegand Herbarium (CU) from 1922-ca. 1942. He was an extraordinarily thorough natural history collector and record-keeper who specialized in vascular plants, cryptogams, and ornithology.

Burnham was born at Vaughns (near Hudson Falls) in Washington County, New York, on 6 October 1870. After studying in local schools, he attended Stanford University from 1893-1895, then finished his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, graduating with a B.S. on 22 June 1899. Further studies were undertaken at Cornell University in 1904-1905, concentrating on mycology. Burnham’s professional credits are impressive: Museum Aid at the New York Botanical Garden (1901-1903); Assistant in Botany at Cornell (1904-1905); Assistant State Botanist with Charles H. Peck at the New York State Museum in Albany (1905-1913); Assistant in Botany at Cornell (1920-1922); and Assistant Curator of the Cornell University Herbarium, with Karl M. Wiegand (1922-ca. 1942). Burnham died at Hudson Falls, New York, on 25 September 1943.

Burnham’s breadth of botanical and mycological competence was extraordinary. With Roy Latham, Long Island’s most versatile field naturalist, he co-authored a landmark "Flora of the Town of Southold, Long Island and Gardiner’s Island" that was published in Torreya between 1914 and 1925. This included all the vascular plants, bryophytes, algae, lichens, fungi, and plant galls of this coastal region. Burnham had the professional connections and scientific society affiliations to facilitate identifications by specialists, which enhanced the quality of their catalogue. It remains a model from the period, and is a baseline of information about this region’s entire flora, as well as an important historical document concerning the biota of the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain.

Burnham amassed a huge personal herbarium of ca. 75,000 specimens that was eventually given to Cornell (CU and CUP). His specimens provide an important nucleus of eastern New York material at the Hortorium Herbarium, and include many of Latham’s vouchers from eastern Long Island. Burham published extensively in botany and ornithology; his floristic emphasis was the Lake George Region in eastern New York. Burnham’s extensive personal papers, journals, and correspondence are housed in the Rare and Manuscript Collections (University Archives) of the Kroch Library at Cornell.

For further information, please see these references:

Burnham, S. H., & R. A. Latham. 1914-1925. The flora of the Town of Southold, Long Island and Gardiner’s Island. Torreya 14: 201-225, 229-254; 17: 111-122; 21: 1-11, 28-33; 23: 3-9, 25-31; 24: 22-32; 25: 71-83.

Cattell, J. M., & J. Cattell (eds.). 1927. American Men of Science, fourth edition. The Science Press, N.Y.

Dirig, R. 1994. The floristic and lichenological work of Roy Latham on eastern Long Island, New York. Mycotaxon 51: 325-340.

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