Rupert Barneby 1911-2000

Thiers, Barbara bthiers at NYBG.ORG
Mon Dec 11 13:53:13 CST 2000


Bronx, New York-Dr. Rupert Charles Barneby, Curator Emeritus in The New York
Botanical Garden's Institute of Systematic Botany and one of the Garden's
most senior and distinguished scientists, died Tuesday, December 5.  He was
89 years old.

Barneby's association with The New York Botanical Garden spanned nearly a
half century.  He arrived as a visiting scholar in the 1950s and shortly
thereafter accepted a staff position as Honorary Curator of Western Botany.
He went on to become a Research Associate and an Editorial Consultant for
Brittonia, the Garden's esteemed scientific journal covering systematic

A self-taught botanist, Barneby rose to become a world expert in Leguminosae
(the bean family) and Menispermaceae (the moonseed family).  He spent his
career at the Garden curating and studying the world's best collection of
New World Leguminosae.

Gregory Long, President of The New York Botanical Garden, said, "Rupert
Barneby was one of the most productive botanists of the twentieth century, a
giant in the field of botanical research.  Over the last half century, he
has been an inspiring mentor, a meticulous scholar, and a creative editor
who has made an enormous contribution to the botanical world.  We at The New
York Botanical Garden are indeed fortunate that his kind, generous, gentle
manner graced our lives."

In 1999, the International Botanical Congress presented Barneby with its
Millennium Botany Award for a lifetime of contribution to science.  In 1980,
he was the winner of the Henry Allan Gleason Award, an annual award from The
New York Botanical Garden for an outstanding recent publication in the field
of plant taxonomy, plant ecology, or plant geography.   In 1989, the
American Society of Plant Taxonomists awarded Barneby with the Asa Gray
Award for his contributions to systematic botany.  In 1991, The Garden
honored Barneby by institutionalizing his legacy through the establishment
of the Rupert C. Barneby Fund for Research in Legume Systematics.  The
Engler Silver Medal, botanical science's highest honor for publications, was
awarded to Barneby in 1992 for his monographic work Sensitivae Censitae:  A
Revision of the Genus Mimosa Linnaeus (Mimosaceae) in the New World.

Since the publication of his first botanical paper in 1941, Barneby
published more than 6,500 pages of papers, monographs, and journals.  Among
his most influential works are Atlas of North American Astragalus; Daleae
Imagines; Intermountain Flora, Volume 3, Part B; and Silk Tree, Guanacaste,
Monkey's Earring:  A Generic System for the Synandrous Mimosaceae of the
Americas, (3 Volumes).

"Rupert Barneby was an incredible scholar and one of the nicest people I
have known. He was one of the most productive and erudite students of botany
and horticulture on the staff of The New York Botanical Garden in its
109-year history.  He will be remembered by thousands of colleagues for his
uncommon generosity in sharing his inexhaustible knowledge and precise
editorial skills.  He has left an authoritative legacy of publications and
will be sorely missed by botanists around the world," said Professor Sir
Ghillean Prance FRS, VMH, the former Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens,

Barneby was known for his talent for discovering or rediscovering rare and
local species. In the course of his five decades of research, Barneby
described and named over 1,100 different plant species new to science.  A
botanist is fortunate to have a new species of plant named in his honor.
Barneby had not only 25 different species named after him, but also, three
genera (groups of species sharing common characteristics, such as roses or
oaks) of plants -- Barnebya, Barnebyella, and Barnebydendron.

Barneby was a member of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, the
International Association for Plant Taxonomy, and the New England Botanical
Club, and a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences.

"Rupert Barneby was a great student of plants in the style of George Bentham
and the other encyclopedic workers of the nineteenth century, who would
tirelessly analyze all we knew about enormous groups of plants and reduce
that knowledge to lucid prose,
working day after day, month after month, and year after year.  He always
had time to encourage and help students and colleagues, giving them the
benefit of his extraordinary classical education, friendly personality, and
love for plants.  He will be greatly missed," said Dr. Peter Raven, Director
of the Missouri Botanical Garden and close friend and colleague.

He lived among literati as easily as he did among scientists.  Considered
his close friends were W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Julian Huxley, and

Rupert Barneby was born October 6, 1911, in Monmouthshire, England.  He
attended Cambridge University where he received his B.A. in History and
Modern Languages in 1932.  He came to the United States in 1937 and
established permanent residency in 1941.  In 1978, he was awarded an
honorary Doctorate of Science degree from The City University of New York.
In accordance with his wishes, there will be no funeral.  The Garden will
hold a memorial celebration in January.

Dr. Barbara M. Thiers
New York Botanical Garden <>
200th St. & Southern Blvd.
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
Email: bthiers at
Voice: 718-817-8622
Fax: 718-562-6780

More information about the Taxacom mailing list