Oakes Ames (botanist)

Oakes Ames (botanist)

Oakes Ames (September 26, 1874 – April 28, 1950) was an American botanist specializing in orchids. His estate is now the Borderland State Park in Massachusetts.

Ames was born into a wealthy family from North Easton, Massachusetts as the youngest son of Governor Oliver Ames. At age fifteen, he collected his first orchids in Easton. He was educated at Harvard University, receiving his A.B. in 1898 and his A.M. in 1899. He married Blanche Ames (no relation) in 1900, resulting in her married name of Blanche Ames Ames.

Ames spent his entire professional career at Harvard. As administrator, he was Assistant Director (1899-1909) and Director of the Botanic Garden (1909-1922); Curator (1923-1927), Supervisor (1927-1937), Director (1937-1945), and Associate Director of the Botanic Museum (1945-1950); Chairman of the Division of Biology (1926-1935) and Chairman of the Council of Botanical Collections and Supervisor of the Biological Laboratory, the Atkins Garden in Cuba, and the Arnold Arboretum (1927-1935). As teacher, he was an instructor in botany (1900-1910), associate professor of botany (1915-1926), professor of botany (1926-1932) and Arnold professor of botany (1932-1935). From 1935 to 1941 he was a research professor of botany. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1911.[1]

The Orchidaceae were little-known before Ames' study and classification. He made expeditions to Florida, the Caribbean, the Philippines, and Central and South America, with his wife creating scientifically accurate drawings of the plants they cataloged. The Ames' work was published in the seven-volume Orchidicae: Illustrations and Studies of the Family Orchidicae. They also developed the Ames Charts, illustrating the phylogenetic relationships of the major useful plants, which are still used.

Ames built up an extensive orchid herbarium, with library, photographs, and paintings, which he gave to Harvard in 1938. Today the Orchid Herbarium of Oakes Ames contains about 131,000 specimens, plus 3,000 flowers in glycerine, 4,000 pickled specimens, and hundreds of line drawings. Its library includes about 5,000 books, reprints, and journals.


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