Asa Gray (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: The leading botanical taxonomist in nineteenth century United States and the founder of the discipline of plant geography, Gray was the first advocate of Darwinian evolution in the United States.
The son of Moses Gray, a tanner, and Roxana Howard Gray (New Englanders who had migrated to upstate New York after the Revolutionary War), Asa Gray was born on November 18, 1810, in Sauquoit, New York. Educated at local schools and academies, Gray entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Western District of New York in 1826. Alternating attendance at the lectures at the medical school with apprenticeship with practicing physicians, Gray received his medical degree in January, 1831.
Slight, short, and clean-shaven until his middle age, Gray was physically agile and appeared ever-youthful. This physical agility was matched by his mental quickness. Complementing these traits was a self-assuredness which led him to abandon medical practice in 1832 to follow his dream of becoming a botanist.
Gray’s interest in botany had been sparked by James Hadley, one of the faculty at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, but his real mentor was John Torrey, one of the outstanding American botanists. After a tryout in 1832, Torrey hired Gray the following year to collect specimens for him. Ultimately, Gray moved into the Torrey home and became...
(The entire section is 1581 words.)
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