Library of the Gray Herbarium



Bernice Schubert was born October 6, 1913 in Boston. She received her B.S. at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1935. She earned her M.S. in 1937 and her Ph.D. in 1941, from Radcliffe College. She worked as a research assistant in systematic botany at Harvard's Gray Herbarium from 1936 to 1939, where she did taxonomic research on Desmodium and Begonia. She assisted with M.L. Fernald's Gray's Manual of Botany (8th edition) and Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America. From 1950 to 1951, she conducted research on legumes as a Guggenheim fellow in Europe. She worked at the Jardin Botanique de l'Etat in Brussels from 1951 to 1952. From 1952 to 1961, she was employed as a plant taxonomist for the U.S.D.A. One of her projects was a program with the National Heart Institute and the National Institutes of Health to screen plants for the presence of alkaloids that could be used to treat hypertension. Schubert next began working at Harvard, where she continued until her retirement in 1984. Among various positions, she was the curator of the Arnold Arboretum, a senior lecturer on biology, and the editor of the Journal of the Arnold Arboretum. She also continued her research focusing on Dioscoreaceae, Leguminosae, and Begoniaceae. Schubert published over 100 scientific papers, was the first secretary of the Women's Organization at Harvard, and was a founding member of the International Association of Plant Taxonomists. She traveled widely, especially to Latin America and Mexico, where she had many contacts in the botanical community. Schubert died August 14, 2000 in Lexington, Massachusetts at age 86.


American Men and Women of Science, 18th ed., 579.
Flora of North America Newsletter 14(3), July-September 2000, 16-17.

Scope and Content:

A large portion of this collection is made up of Schubert's files, which were kept organized as she left them. The files include a mixture of correspondence, printed material, photographs, postcards, and other documents. The remainder of this collection was received separately from Schubert's files, and has been divided according to material type. It includes letters received by the Harvard University Herbaria in response to Schubert's death; a small number of miscellaneous letters to Schubert; many portraits of Schubert throughout her life; several group portraits from botanical conferences; a series of color slides taken by Schubert; biographical information on Schubert such as curriculum vitae, publications lists, and obituaries; and a few miscellaneous items.

Series Description:

Series 1: Schubert's Files

This series includes all of Schubert's files in the order and organization that she kept them. There are five main sections and the files are arranged alphabetically within each section: institutions, people, general correspondence, Dioscorea correspondence, and a miscellaneous group of files at the end. There are some exceptions to this general organization, as well as some deviations from strict alphabetical order. The files include a wide variety of material, including correspondence, printed material, photographs, postcards, pamphlets, and other items. The material in many of the files is in reverse chronological order and is dated between 1952-1997. The institutional files include correspondence and assorted material on botanical research, conferences, associations, and articles. In the Harvard University section, there are many files on the Arnold Arboretum's administration and publications, the Harvard Biology department, and on Schubert's advisees and graduate students. The files organized by personal name also mainly include correspondence on Schubert's botanical research, field work, herbaria loans and similar topics. The general correspondence section includes a variety of letters to and from Schubert's many contacts and colleagues on botanical topics. The Dioscorea correspondence files include more letters focused on her main subject of research. Finally, there are files on several collecting trips, expense reports, more files on the Harvard Department of Biology, and more files on the Arnold Arboretum and its centennial celebration.

Series 2: Correspondence

This series includes correspondence related to Schubert's death and miscellaneous letters to Schubert that were not in her files.

Series 3: Photographs and Slides

This series includes portraits of Schubert alone and with other researchers, group portraits from botanical conferences and the Harvard University Herbaria, and a series of color slides.

Series 4: Printed Material and Miscellaneous Papers

This series includes biographical information such as curriculum vitae, publications lists, obituaries, and awards. It also includes a few programs from events, two maps, some notes, and a few other miscellaneous papers.

Series 5: Additional Files

This series consists of correspondence, slides, botanical illustrations and other material that arrived at the archives separately from the bulk of Schubert's papers. The items date from the early 1950's up to the year 2000. The organization of the files is for the most part by subject, in keeping with the order in which they arrived at the archives. In many cases the subjects in these files correspond with subjects in Series 1-4. In these cases "see also" notes have been added to the folder lists in Series 5.


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