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Brandegee, Mary Katharine (1844–1920)

Brandegee, Mary Katharine (1844–1920)

American botanist. Name variations: Katherine Layne. Born Mary Katharine Layne in 1844 in Tennessee; died in 1920 in Berkeley, California; daughter and second of ten children of Marshall and Mary (Morris) Layne; graduated from University of California, San Francisco, M.D., 1878; married Hugh Curran, in 1866 (died 1874); married Townshend Brandegee (a civil engineer), in 1889.

Shortly after her first husband's death in 1874, Mary Katharine Brandegee entered the University of California to study medicine. After receiving her M.D. in 1878, she took up the study of plants, concentrating on their medicinal value before expanding to a more general approach. Through her mentor, Dr. Hans Herman Behr, she began working at the California Academy of Sciences, where she was curator of botany from 1883 to 1893.

With her second husband, Townshend Brandegee, also an avid plant collector, she established and edited a series of Bulletins of the California Academy of Science. The couple also founded Zoe, a journal of botanical observations from the western United States, in which Brandegee published most of her works.

According to Marilyn Ogilvie in Women in Science, Brandegee's plant collections were important in determining range boundaries. "She was especially interested in locating intermediate forms of newly described species, thereby demonstrating that the new 'species' were actually only subspecifically different." Two new species of plants were named for Mary Katharine Brandegee: Astragalus layneae and Mimulus layneae.


Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey. Women in Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993.

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