Botanical Databases
Other Botanical Links
Library Collections

Alexander Forbes (1882-1965)


Alexander Forbes was born in Milton, Massachusetts, on May 14, 1882. He received his A.B from Harvard in 1904, his A.M in 1905, and his M.D. in 1910. He was awarded an honorary Sc.D from Tufts College in 1952 and Johns Hopkins University in 1954. From 1910-1948 he taught at Harvard Medical School, as instructor (1910-21), associate professor (1921-36), and professor (1936-48). In 1948 he became professor emeritus. He died in 1965.

In the summer of 1931, Forbes organized an expedition to survey the northern third of the Labrador coast. The expedition consisted of the schooner Ramah and two airplanes, a Fairchild cabin monoplane and a smaller Waco biplane. Osborn Maitland Miller developed an approach for using aerial photography to map the area and oversaw the extensive surveying efforts, which included the taking of more than 500 photos with a Fairchild survey camera from the Waco plane. The expedition also had a geologist, N.E. Odell, and a botanist, Ernst Cleveland Abbe, in addition to a number of crew members; Forbes was skipper of the Ramah. A report of the expedition was published in the Geographical Review 22 (Jan. 1932): 30-60.

The expedition's work was continued in the summer of 1932 by a survey of a portion of the coast south of the area explored the previous year. This was led by Charles J. Hubbard (Forbes did not participate), and a comparable number of photographs were made.

In the summer of 1935, Forbes and Hubbard flew from Boston to Cape Chidley, Labrador, to fill in gaps that had been found in the previous surveys.

The results of the Labrador work were published in Northernmost Labrador Mapped from the Air by Alexander Forbes, with contributions by O.M. Miller, N.E. Odell, and Ernst C. Abbe, American Geographical Society Special Publication No. 22, 1938. This report concentrated on the 1931 work and was accompanied by a set of maps and navigational notes.


Cattell, Jaques. American Men of Science 10th ed Vol. II. Tempe, Arizona : Jaques Cattell Press, Inc., 1960.

Scope and Content:

The Alexander Forbes papers consist of about 500 aerial photographs from the 1931 expedition, apparently those taken with the Fairchild camera. They are accompanied by a letter from Forbes and a detailed list of the photos.


According to a note with the collection, the photographs were received by the Gray Herbarium in April, 1932, as a gift from the American Geographical Society. the identification list is stamped as received by the Herbarium on Sept. 30, 1932, and is labeled as the gift of O.M. Miller through E.C. Abbe.

Container Listing: (BOX BD)

1. Folder containing letter from Forbes (Oct. 3, 1932) and identification list for photos.

2. Box containing photos 0-20-105-1 to 0-20-106-100

3. Box containing photos 0-20-107-1 to 0-20-108-100

4. Box containing photos 0-20-109-1 to 0-20-110-16-A

See Also:

Semi-Historic Letter Collection


| Gray Herbarium Archives Home Page |
| Botany Libraries Home Page | Harvard University Herbaria Home Page |

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