Kellogg, Albert

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Kellogg, Albert

(b, New Hartford, Connecticut, 6 December 1813, d. Alameda, California, 31 March 1887)


The first resident botanist of California, Kellogg came from a line of pioneer English farmers. He was the son of Isaac and Aurill Barney kellogg. His boyhood was spent on the farm and he showed an early interest in plants. He began studying medicine as an apprentice to a Middletown, Connecticut, physician but his health failed. He resumed his medical studies at Charleston, South Carolina, but tuberculosis necessitated his removal to the interior. After obtaining his M.D. degree at Transylvania College, Lexington, Kentucky, he practiced in Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama; those who knew him say he never requested payment.

Kellogg was in San Antonio, Texas, in 1845 but shortly returned to Connecticut. in search of new botanical fields and intending to practice, he joined a party heading for the gold fields by way of the Horn. Kellogg arrived in Sacramento 8 August 1849 but moved on to San Francisco where with six others he founded what is now known as the California Academy of Sciences in 1853. By his encouragement of the Academy’s beginnings, its collections, library, and publications, by his own reports and exceptional artistic talents, Kellogg influenced natural sciences in California. he described 215 species of plants, of which about fifty are today recognized in the manuals.

In 1867, the year of the Alaska purchase, Kellogg accompanied the Coast Survey cutter Lincoln as far as Unalaska in the Aleutians. He made about 500 plant collections in three sets, destined for the Smithsonian Institution, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and the California Academy (the latter almost wholly destroyed in the 1906 fire). His Forest Trees of California was the state’s first dendrological report. he finished 400 drawings, principally of woody plants; those of the oaks were published posthumously. he never married. His biographer E. L. Greene said Kellogg would not have claimed to be “a scientific botanist” and that his writings were “a commingling of matters, poetical, theological and botanical.” Others described him as a “dreamy imaginative man,” with “childlike enthusiasm and unworldliness,” who lived “a happy life and died respected.”


I. Original Works. Kellogg’s most important writings, some in collaboration with H. H. Behr, were published in the Bulletin and the proceedings of the California Academy of Natural Sciences, including first reports on the singular plant forms of Baja California. His Forest Trees of California, appendix to Second Report of the California State Mineralogist, 1880–1882, 1–116, was reprinted separately (Sacramento, 1882). Illustrations of West American Oaks. . . the text by Edward lee Greene (San Francisco, 1889) includes 24 of Kellogg’s line drawings.

II. Secondary Literature. Edward Lee Greene wrote the principal sketch of Kellogg for Pittonia,1 (1887), 145–151; this has been used by subsequent authors in their biographies, including W. L. Jepson in the Dictionary of American Biography, V, pt. 1 (New York, 1933), 300–301. Greene’s contention that Kellogg met Audubon has been proved erroneous by S. W. Geiser, Naturalists of the Frontier, 2nd ed. (Dallas, 1948), p. 276.

Kellogg’s Alaskan itinerary is summarized by Eric Hulteń, Botaniska Notiser,50 (1940), 302. Kellogg’s friend of twenty years, George Davidson, contributed a eulogistic preface to West American Oaks.

Joseph Ewan

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Kellogg, Albert

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