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HODGE, Walter - President 1957-1960


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United States economic botanist, agricultural explorer, and professional photographer. Walter Henricks Hodge was born in 1912 and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he graduated in biology from Clark University in 1934. He went on to study at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, for his master's degree and afterwards, until 1942, was an instructor at the college, except for leave granted to pursue dissertation research on the flora of Dominica for his PhD from Harvard University (1937-1940), which he completed under the tutelage of M.L. Fernald.

During the Second World War, he was a botanist for the Cinchona Mission in Peru for the United States State Department of Economic Warfare (1943-1945). At the end of the war, he served for a year as the United States State Department visiting professor and head of the Department of Biology at the Universidad Alacional de Colombia, Medellín. On his return to the University of Massachusetts, he was promoted to associate professor of botany. In 1950 he became the first lecturer on the new course in tropical botany offered by Harvard University at its Atkins Garden near Cienfuegos, Cuba. That same year he obtained leave from Massachusetts to serve as senior botanist for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Agricultural Research Service (1950-1952), and then as principal botanist and assistant head in the Division of Plant Exploration and Introduction (1953-1955).

In 1951 he undertook botanical exploration and research for the USDA Cortisone Program in Southern Africa, visiting South Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), North Rhodesia (Zambia), Nyasaland (Malawi) and Tanganyika (Tanzania). He later made field trips to Australia (1958), Indonesia (1959), and Dominica (1961) to collect plants for introduction into American botanical gardens on behalf of the USDA-Longwood Gardens Cooperative Ornamental Plant Exploration Program. He spent the last part of his professional career associated in various capacities with the National Science Foundation (NSF), initially as special consultant for tropical biology (1961-1962), charged with surveying locations in Latin America for the proposed Organization of Tropical Studies, then as program director for systematic biology (1962-1964), and finally as section head for environmental and systematic biology (1964-1973), including a four-year secondment (1966-1970) to Tokyo, where he was instrumental in advancing the NSF's US-Japan cooperative science program. Although his role in Japan was primarily administrative, he took the opportunity to make a personal study of such economic plants as Wasabia japonica, Raphanus, Juncus effusus, Arctium lappa, bonsai plants, Japanese chrysanthemums, and various plants related to Japanese festivals.

He took early retirement in 1973 to manage the final preparation of the manuscript for Hortus III (1976) at the Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University. Throughout his career, his wife, Barbara, made significant contributions to his botanical work. Since retiring, they have resided in Florida.

His bibliography lists over 200 publications in the areas of botany, agriculture, and general natural history (some of the early articles were published under the name Henricks Hodge). The major works are The Flora of Dominica, B.W.I., Part I (1954), and The Ethnobotany of the Island Caribs of Dominica (1957, with anthropologist Douglas Taylor). Although not written by Hodge, Part II of the Flora of Dominica was based largely on his herbarium collections. He also contributed the botanical articles for Encyclopedia Barsa. During his retirement, he published The Audubon Society Book of Wildflowers (1978, with Les Line). Besides his botanical work, he is an accomplished photographer, especially of plants but not exclusively. In fact, he has more photographs published in the Encyclopaedia Britannica than any other photographer. Those taken on his expeditions, especially in Latin America, are of ethnographic, geographical, as well as botanical importance. In the 1960s, at the urging of the founding director of the Hunt Institute, Dr George Lawrence, he began a series of informal portraits of the contemporary botanists he met on his work assignments throughout the world. So far he has taken more than 1400 portraits, many of which have been incorporated into the main portrait collection at the Hunt Institute.

Hodge is a member of the Explorers Club, and was director of the American Horticultural Society and president of the Palm Society and of the Society for Economic Botany. After retiring, he served on the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Fairchild Tropical Garden. His honours include the Large Gold Medal of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1977 and an honorary doctorate from Clark University, his alma mater, in 1990. New species collected by and named for him include Cyathea hodgeana Proctor (= Trichipteris hodgeana (Proctor) R.M. Tryon), Eugenia hodgei McVaugh and Lantana hodgei R. Sanders from Dominica, and Anthurium hodgei Croat, M.M. Mora & Oberle, Justicia hodgei Leonard and Vriesea hodgei L.B. Sm. From Colombia. There is also a species of Dominican crane fly named after him by his friend and colleague Prof. G.C. Crampton, an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts, after Hodge returned with the first collections of crane flies from the island.


Brummitt, R.K. & Powell, C.E., Authors Pl. Names (1992): 276;

Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Bot. Explor. S. Afr. (1981): 189;

Knobloch, I.W., Phytologia Mem. 6 (1983): 42;

Lanjouw, J. & Stafleu, F.A., Index Herb. Coll. A-D (1954): 96;

Lanjouw, J. & Stafleu, F.A., Index Herb. Coll. E-H (1957): 279;

Credit to JStor Plant Science http://plants.jstor.org

Leilani Estates, 25 mls/40 km south of Hilo, Big Island of Hawai'i. Elevation 880 ft/270 m. Average rainfall 140 inches/3550 mm


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