John K. Small

(1869 - 1938)

John Kunkel Small was a prominent taxonomic botanist who took special interest in the flora of the southeastern United States.  An early staff member of the New York Botanical Garden, Small travelled extensively throughout the South collecting and documenting its rich flora.

John K. Small was born on January 31, 1869 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  He attended Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and graduated in 1892.   He received his doctorate degree in 1895 from Columbia University in New York City.   He remained at Columbia for three more years as curator of the herbarium until he was offered the position of curator of museums at the newly formed New York Botanical Garden.

After several early field trips, Small developed an interest in the flora of the southeastern U.S., and spent most of his life studying this area.  He was a prolific writer and a frequent contributor to the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club.  In 1903, Small published the Flora of the Southeastern United States, a work of substantial size (nearly 1400 pages) that included species previously excluded from earlier scientific works and new flora never before documented.  His field trips to Florida to acquire information for his flora sparked such an interest that he returned nearly every year thereafter.  Later in life, Small renewed his interest in ferns, and eventually published three books on the subject.

The initial development of the New York Botanical Garden began in the 1890's while Small was finishing his doctoral work.  By 1898, the Garden was firmly established, and hired Small as its curator of museums.  He spent 34 years promoting and supporting the work of the Garden and developing its scientific collections.   Published accounts of Small's travels and articles concerning a wide range of plants fill the pages of the Journal of the New York Botanical Garden.

The Wiegand Herbarium at Cornell houses Small's important collection of pre-1899 cryptogams, especially bryophytes.


For further information please see:

Barnhart, John H.  1938.  The Passing of Doctor Small, Journal of The New York Botanical Garden  39 (460), pp. 73-79.

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