Bailey, Liberty Hyde, Jr.

views updated

Bailey, Liberty Hyde, Jr.

(b. South Haven Township, Michigan, 15 March 1858; d. Ithaca, New York, 25 December1954)

botany, horticulture, agriculture.

Bailey was the youngest son of Liberty Hyde Bailey, who had migrated form Townshend, Vermont, and Sarah Harrison Bailey, who came of a distinguished Virginia family. At an early age he manifested his precocity in the study of plants, birds, insects, and unusual rocks of the region. Since he grew up in an area abounding in orchards, he was also interested in the grafting of apple tree varieties.

At nineteen, Bailey entered Michigan state (Agricultural)College, where his genius for plant study was soon recognized by william James Beal, a former student of As a gray and a pioneer in the laboratory method of teaching botany. Bailey also studied Darwinian evolution, and in 1880 the Botanical Gazette (5 [1880], 76-77) published his article “Michigan Lake Shore Plants,” When Bailey received the B.S. degree in 1882, he had been trained in the use of compound microscopes and had begun experiments with Rubus and other plants. A brief stint as a reporter on the Springfield, illinois, Monitor followed; but a visit to e herbarium of Michael Schuck Bebb testifies to his continued interest in plants. Late in 1882 Asa Gray of Harvard employed Bailey “at Cambridge... for a year or two” as assistant curator of the university herbarium. He was also assistant in physiological experiments and had charge of nomenclature for gardens, greenhouses, and the students’ and garden herbaria. In June 1883 he married Annette smith, of a farm near Lansing, Michigan.

From 1884 through 1900 Bailey published many papers on Carex, his first being a catalog that was presented in fuller form in 1887. In 1885 Michigan State (Agricultural) College called him to serve as professor of horticulture an landscape gardening. In that same year the American Pomological Society awarded Bailey its Wilder medal for an exhibit of native nuts and fruits. No later than 1886 he began making crosses and varietal studies in Cucurbita, another group on which he became an authority. His instruction in horiticulture, in both classroom and field, embraced every facet of the subject as it was then conceived, and introduced uch innovations as classification and nomenclature of fruits and vegetables, hybridization, and cross-fertilization of plant varieties. Also in 1886 Bailey was elected president the M.S. degree from Michigan State, and, with Joseph Charles Arthur, participated in a botanical survey in Minnesota. The first three of his more than sixty books appeared during this period.

In 1888 Bailey was summoned to Cornell University to occupy its chair of practical and experimental horticulture, the first such chair in an experimental horticulture, the first such chair in an American university. he held it with distinction as horticulturist, botanist, rural sociologist, nature-study proponent, editor, poet, philosopher, and world traveler until 1903, when he became the second director of the College of Agriculture, In May 1904 he was made first dean of the New York State College of Agriculture and director of its experiment station.

Bailey wrote hundreds of papers, but the magnitude of his work may best be indicated by enumerating some of his many honors. He was a founder and first president of the American Society for Horticultural Science(1903), a founder and president of the Botanical Society of America (1926), and twice President of the American Nature-Study Society (1914-1915). He also served as president of the American Association of Agricultural Colleges and experiment stations (1906) the American Pomological Society (1917), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1926), the Fourth International Botanical Congress(1926), the American Country Life association (19312), and the American Society of Plant Taxonomists (1939). Honorary degrees were conferred on him by Alfred University and the universities of Wisconsin, Vermont, and Puerto Rico, and he was a member of, among many organizations, the National academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American academy of Arts and Sciences, and the academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

In 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Bailey chairman of his Country Life Commission, which investigated the possibilities of improving rural conditions and, until 1911, submitted recommendations that were nationwide in scope. Bailey was also the founder, developer, and donor of the Bailey Hortorium of the New York state College of Agriculture, which publishes the quarterly journal Baileya, devoted to the botany of cultivated plants, their identification, nomenclature, classification, and history. Another periodical, Gentes herbarum, founded by Bailey has attained worldwide influence.

Bailey was a recognized authority on Carex, Rubus, Cucurbita, the palms, Vitis, and certain of the cultivated groups, notably Brassica. He will be most remembered, however, for his great encyclopedias and important manuals of horticulture and agriculture; his summaries of progress; his texts; his books on principles of cultivation, harvesting, plant breeding, and evolution; his (and his daughter Ethel’s) Hortus; his beautiful and informative “garden” books; and his so-called background books.


Additional works on Bailey are addresses published in Baileya, 6 and delivered at Cornell University, mid-March 1958, on the celebration of the Liberty Hyde Bailey centennial; E. Eugene Barker,“Liberty Hyde Bailey, Philosopher and Poet,” in Cornell Countryman, 14 no 1 (1958), 13 f.; Lewis Knudson, “Liberty Hyde Bailey,” in Science, 121(1955), 322-323; George H.M. Lawrence, “Liberty Hyde Bailey, 1858-1954,” in Baileya, 3 (1955), 27-40, with a list of degrees, honors, and societies and a bibliography; “Liberty Hyde Bailey, the Botanist,” in Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 82 (1955), 300-305; “Professor L.H. Bailey,” in Nature, 175 (1955), 451-452; and “The Bailey Hortorium, Its A Past and Present,” in Baileya, 4 no.1(1956), 1-9; Andrew Denny Rodgers III, Liberty Hyde Bailey. A Story of American Plant Sciences (Princeton, 1949), see “Acknowledgments” for source materials—also a facsimile of 1949 ed. (New York, 1965), and “Portrait Liberty Hyde Bailey,” in American Scholar (Summer 1951), 336-340.

Andrew Denny Rodgers III