Braun, E. Lucy (1889–1971)

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Braun, E. Lucy (1889–1971)

Botanist and conservationist, who was a pioneering ecologist of the early 20th century. Name variations: Emma Lucy Braun. Born on April 19, 1889, in Cincinnati, Ohio; died on March 5, 1971, in Mt. Washington, Ohio; eldest of two daughters of George Frederick (a school principal) and Emma Moriah (Wright) Braun; sister ofAnnette Braun (1884–1978), an entomologist and international authority on moths; granted A.B. from University of Cincinnati, 1910; A.M. in geology, 1912; Ph.D. in botany, 1924.

E. Lucy Braun, a pioneering ecologist of the early 20th century, was born in Cincinnati and grew up in a family of nature lovers. Braun, and her younger sister Annette, often accompanied their parents on nature walks to identify plant wildlife. Their mother, an amateur botanist, kept a collection of dried plant specimens for study. An excellent student throughout her public-school days, Braun progressed quickly through her courses at the University of Cincinnati, earning her Ph.D. in botany before her 25th birthday. She undertook a teaching career at the university in like fashion, rising to associate professor of botany in 1927. Full professorship, however, eluded her until 1946, two years before her retirement.

Braun's early studies and publications centered on the plant life of the Cincinnati region and culminated in the classic book, Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America (1950), the most respected of her scholarly works. Her pioneering study in the 1920s and '30s, comparing the current Ohio flora with the flora of 100 years before, was one of the first of its kind in the U.S., and it became a model for comparing changes in particular flora over a period of time. In 1935, Braun became the first woman president of the Ohio Academy of Science. Under the auspices of the Academy, she later established the Ohio Flora Committee (1951) and became its chair.

After her retirement in 1948, Braun continued field research and published several additional major works. An extensive study in 1955 theorized that the plant populations in the Southern Appalachians that had survived glaciation gave rise to other forest communities. The extensive summary of the study ("The Phytogeography of Unglaciated Eastern United States and Its Interpretation") was published in Botanical Review. In conjunction with the Ohio Flora Committee, whose goal was to prepare a comprehensive study of the vascular flora of Ohio, Braun produced two authoritative books, The Woody Plants of Ohio: Trees, Shrubs, and Weedy Climbers, Native, Naturalized, and Escaped; A Contribution Toward the Vascular Flora of Ohio (1961) and The Monocotyledoneae: Cat-tails to Orchids (1967).

Braun and her sister Annette, an entomologist and noted authority on moths, lived together in Mount Washington, near Cincinnati, turning their home into a laboratory and conservatory for studying rare and unusual plants. They were dedicated conservationists whose property included an experimental garden and a nature preserve. Braun established a chapter of the Wild Flower Preservation Society in Cincinnati and edited its national magazine, Wild Flower. She particularly championed conservation of wildlife habitats, contributing numerous articles on the subject. The scientific community honored Braun with numerous awards, including the Mary Soper Pope Medal for achievement in the field of botany (1952) and a Certificate of Merit from the Botanical Society of America (1956). E. Lucy Braun died at the age of 81; she is buried in Spring Grove, Cincinnati.


Bailey, Brooke. The Remarkable Lives of 100 Women Healers & Scientists. Holbrook, MA: Bob Adams, 1994.

Sicherman, Barbara, and Carol Hurd Green. Notable American Women: The Modern Period. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1980.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts