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Edward W. Greenwood (1918-2002)

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Edward W. Greenwood was an engineering chemist with a wide-ranging knowledge of natural history, but his lifelong avocation was the study of orchids, particularly those native to Canada and Mexico. Greenwood was born in Toronto, Ontario, on 9 February 1918. He attended high school in a rural area outside of Toronto. It was there that his lifelong interest in orchids and photography began. One of his teachers helped him build a pinhole camera and Greenwood's first photograph was of Platanthera dilata. Greenwood graduated with a B.Sc. in Engineering Chemistry from Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario in 1943. Upon graduation he joined the army and was selected for Officer Training School. He then continued his education at the Royal Military College of Science in England. Greenwood worked for the Canadian government in various capacities until his retirement in late 1973.

Greenwood and his wife, Mary, took their first vacation to Mexico in 1958-1959. They met and formed lasting relationships with Tom MacDougall, Drs. Helia Bravo Hollis and Eizi Matuda and Glenn Pollard. The Greenwoods spent every subsequent vacation in Mexico. In 1963 Greenwood met Eric Hágsater and began an endearing and collaborative friendship. The four years prior to his retirement, Greenwood worked for the Canadian High Commission in London, England. This allowed him to spend his spare time at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Herbarium and Library, and at the British Museum Library. He photocopied original descriptions and photographed type specimens of Mexican orchids, preparing for his retirement in Oaxaca. He retired to Oaxaca in 1973, and thus began a twenty year period that was the "most productive period in Mexican orchidology." Shortly after Greenwood retired, Hágsater revived the orchid society, "Amigos de las Orquídeas" and began publishing Orquidea. Greenwood was a Research Associate of AMO, the herbarium of the Asociación Mexicana de Orquideologia and served as an editor for Orquidea. He described ten new orchid species, and another nine, plus a species and variety of cactus, were named in his honor by Mexican colleagues. Nearly half of Greenwood's forty papers were published in the Mexican journal Orquidea. His treatment of the Mexican orchid genus Govenia appears in volume 26 of the Flora of North America. Greenwood died in Ottawa on 24 February 2002, at the age of 84. Colleagues remember Greenwood not only for his passion for orchids, but also for his energy, enthusiasm, and good humor. He was a talented storyteller and source of encouragement and inspiration to those who worked with him.

Bibliography of E. W. Greenwood

- Flora of North America Newsletter 16(1): 3, Jan-March 2002.
- Hágsater and Salazar, eds., Orchids of Mexico. Parts 2-3: iv-vi. Asociación Mexicana de Orquideología, Mexico. 1990.
- Reddoch and Reddoch, "A Tribute to Edward Warren Greenwood (1918-2002), Canadian Orchidologist." The Canadian Field-Naturalist. 116: 326-330. 2002.

Scope and Content:

The Greenwood Collection (20 linear feet) contains correspondence (original and carbon copies), notes, lists (bibliographies, synonymy and illustrations), field journals (originals and photocopies), manuscript drafts, articles and descriptions (reprints and copies), drawings (originals by EWG and copies), copies of herbarium specimens, pressed specimens, photographs, slides, and stereoscopic images.

Provenance and Original Order:

The Greenwood Collection was transferred to Harvard's Oakes Ames Orchid Library Archives in 2003 by Gustavo A. Romero (AMES), who received the collection from the executor of Greenwood's estate, Dr. Paul M. Catling (DAO).

The collection remains in the original order in which it was received. The bulk of the collection consists of files arranged alphabetically by genus and species. Another large portion of the collection consists of over 3000 slides taken by EWG mostly of orchids, but also of landscapes and his travels.


The Ames Orchid Herbarium Archives of the Harvard Botany Libraries would like to extend a special thanks to Natalie Warford, who partially funded the processing of this collection.

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Last Updated August 2004
Copyright 2002 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College