David Fairchild

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David G. Fairchild
David Fairchild.jpg
David Fairchild in 1889
Born (1869-04-07)April 7, 1869
Lansing, Michigan
Died August 6, 1954(1954-08-06) (aged 85)
Coconut Grove, Miami, Florida
Nationality American
Fields Botany
Notable awards Public Welfare Medal (1933)
Spouse Marian Hubbard Bell
This article is about David Grandison Fairchild the botanist. For the California Politician, David Fairchild, see David Fairchild (California politician).

David Grandison Fairchild (April 7, 1869 - August 6, 1954) was an American botanist and plant explorer. Fairchild was responsible for the introduction of more than 200,000 exotic plants[1] and varieties of established crops into the United States, including soybeans,[2] pistachios,[3] mangos, nectarines, dates, bamboos, and flowering cherries. Certain varieties of wheat,[4] cotton, and rice became especially economically important.

Background[edit]

Fairchild was born in Lansing, Michigan, and was raised in Manhattan, Kansas. He was a member of the Fairchild family, descendants of Thomas Fairchild of Stratford, Connecticut. He graduated from Kansas State College of Agriculture (B.A. 1888, M.S. 1889) where his father, George Fairchild, was president. He continued his studies at Iowa State and at Rutgers with his uncle, Byron Halsted, a noted biologist. He received an honorary D.Sc. degree from Oberlin College in 1915.

Barbour Lathrop, a wealthy world traveler, persuaded Fairchild to become a plant explorer for the US Department of Agriculture. Lathrop and another wealthy patron, Allison Armour, financed some of Fairchild's many explorations for new plants to be introduced into the U.S. Fairchild was the author of a number of popular books on his plant collecting expeditions. Of those early travels, Fairchild wrote, "I am glad that I saw a few of the quiet places of the world before the coming of automobiles ...".[5]

For many years Fairchild managed the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. One accomplishment was to help introduce the cherry trees from Japan to Washington.[6] In 1898 he established the introduction garden for tropical plants in Miami, Florida.[7] In 1905 he married Marian, younger daughter of Alexander Graham Bell. Fairchild was a member of the board of trustees of the National Geographic Society,[8] and an officer in what is now called the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.[9]

In 1926, the Fairchilds built a home on an 8-acre (32,000 m2) parcel on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove, Florida. They named it "The Kampong", after similar family compounds in Java, Indonesia, where Fairchild had spent so many happy days collecting plants. He covered this property with an extraordinary collection of rare tropical trees and plants and eventually wrote a book about the place, entitled "The World Grows Round my Door". In 1984, The Kampong became part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. In 1938, he was honored by having the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables named after him.

Fairchild was a member of the board of regents of the University of Miami from 1929 to 1933. For three of those years he was chairman of the board.[10] In 1933 he was awarded the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.[11]

His son, Alexander Graham Bell Fairchild lived and worked as a research entomologist for 33 years at the Gorgas Memorial Laboratory in the Republic of Panama. A daughter, Nancy Bell, married another entomologist, Marston Bates, author of many books on natural history. She herself wrote a book about living in rural Colombia during the 1940s: "East of the Andes and West of Nowhere".

Writings[edit]

Fairchild wrote four books that describe his extensive world travels and his work introducing new plant species to the United States. Beside sharing his legendary tropical botanical expertise, Fairchild provided graphic accounts of native cultures he was able to see before their modernization. He was an accomplished photographer and illustrated these books himself.

  • The World Was My Garden: Travels of a Plant Explorer. (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1938)
  • Garden Islands of the Great East: Collecting Seeds from the Philippines and Netherlands India in the Junk 'Chêng ho. (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1943)
  • The World Grows Round My Door; The Story of The Kampong, a Home on The Edge of the Tropics. (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1947)
  • Exploring for Plants. (New York: Macmillan, 1930).

The World Was My Garden won a National Book Award as the Bookseller Discovery of 1938, voted by members of the American Booksellers Association. The Discovery was "the most deserving book which failed to receive adequate sales and recognition".[12]

In addition Fairchild and his wife Marian wrote an early book on macro photography of insects titled Book of Monsters(Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1914). Fairchild also wrote numerous monographs about plants, plant exploring, and the transportation and cultivation of new plants in the United States.

Botanical Citation[edit]

See also[edit]

  • The Kampong, the home and personal introduction garden of David Grandison Fairchild

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Williams 1963. p. 185.
  2. ^ Fairchild 1938. p. 259.
  3. ^ Fairchild 1938. p. 174.
  4. ^ Barbour 1943. p. 145.
  5. ^ Fairchild 1938. p. 103.
  6. ^ National Park Service
  7. ^ Fairchild 1947. p. 19.
  8. ^ Poole 2004. p. 133.
  9. ^ Fairchild 1938. p. 380.
  10. ^ Tebeau 1976. p. 43
  11. ^ "Public Welfare Award". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  12. ^ "Book About Plants Receives Award: Dr. Fairchild's 'Garden' Work Cited by Booksellers", The New York Times 1939-02-15, page 20. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851–2007).
  13. ^ "Author Query for 'D.Fairchild'". International Plant Names Index. 
Bibliography
  • Barbour, Thomas. Naturalist at Large. Boston: Little, Brown, 1943.
  • Clement, Gail. "Reclaiming the Everglades / David Grandison Fairchild". Florida International University. Retrieved February 28, 2011. 
  • Fairchild, David. The World Was My Garden. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1938.
  • Fairchild, David (1947). The World Grows Round My Door. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 347. 
  • "HISTORY OF THE CHERRY TREES". National Park Service. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  • Poole, Robert M. Explorers House. New York: Penguin Press, 2004.
  • Tebeau, Charlton W. The University of Miami. Coral Gables: University of Miami Press, 1976.
  • Williams, Beryl and Epstein, Samuel. Plant Explorer. New York: Julian Messner, 1963.

Other references[edit]

External links[edit]