Paul H. Allen

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For other people named Paul Allen, see Paul Allen (disambiguation).
Paul Hamilton Allen
Born August 29, 1911
Enid, Oklahoma
Died November 14, 1963
Citizenship United States
Author abbrev. (botany) P.H.Allen

Paul Hamilton Allen (1911–1963) was an American botanist noted for his work on the ecology of Central America, orchid systematics and economically important species including bananas. He was married to the former Dorothy Osdieck of Kirkwood, Missouri.[1]

Allen was born in Enid, Oklahoma. With only a secondary school education, he became a student apprentice at the Missouri Botanical Garden.[1] In 1934 he accompanied Carroll William Dodge and Julian Steyermark on a 6-month collecting expedition to Panama. Two years later, he returned to Panama to manage the Missouri Botanical Garden's field station and later served as superintendent at the Canal Zone Experimental Station.[1] He served as manager of the station from 1936–1939.[2]

During World War II, Allen was one of the few American botanists with extensive tropical experience.[1] He prepared a paper on the "poisonous and injurious plants of Panama" which was published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine in 1943.[3] He joined the United States Rubber Development Corporation and worked on the collection of rubber from wild Hevea trees in the Colombian Amazon.[1]

After the end of the World War II Allen completed an account of the Orchidaceae (orchid family) for the Flora of Panama before joining the United Fruit Company in Costa Rica. This led to the production of his book The Rain Forests of Golfo Dulce.[1] He served as the director of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden from 1953–1954,[2] before returning to Central America to teach at the United Fruit Company's Escuela Agricola Panamericana near Tegucigalpa in Honduras. Allen then conducted a survey of the forest resources of El Salvador[1] and established the Paul C. Stanley Herbarium.[4] In 1959 he returned to the United Fruit Company's research department, where he served as the director of the Lancetilla Experimental Station.

In 1959 the United Fruit Company launched a major banana breeding project. Allen and Dutch botanist J. J. Ochse were selected to lead collecting expeditions to Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. Between 1959 and 1961 they collected nearly 800 accessions of wild and cultivated species and varieties of bananas from Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Sri Lanka.[4] This collection was described by botanist and plant collector Wilson Popenoe as "one of the grandest and most successful in the history of plant introduction".[4]

Allen then returned to Honduras where he worked on sorting and classifying the collections. He also compiled annotated check-lists of hundreds of common names. Much of this work was ongoing at the time of his death in 1963.[4] He died of cancer in 1963,[1] at the height of his career.[4] His collection of banana germplasm remains the basis of the breeding program of the Fundación Hondureña de Investigación Agrícola.[4]

Allen authored taxonomic descriptions of 73 species, subspecies and varieties of plants, especially in the orchid family.[5] Allen's papers are held by the Hunt Institution for Botanical Documentation at Carnegie Mellon University, together with artwork by his wife, Dorothy.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Hodge, W.H. (1964). "Paul Hamilton Allen, 1911 - 1963". Taxon (International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT)) 13 (3): 73–77. 
  2. ^ a b c "Paul Hamilton Allen (1911–1963)". Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation Archives Collections List. Retrieved 2009-01-05. [dead link]
  3. ^ Howard, Richard A. (1994). "The Role of Botanists during World War II in the Pacific Theater". The Botanical Review 60 (2): 197–257. doi:10.1007/BF02856577. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f F. Rosales, E. Arnaud and J. Coto (ed.). A catalogue of wild and cultivated bananas. A tribute to the work of Paul Allen. Montpellier, France: INIBAP. p. 364. 
  5. ^ International Plant Names Index
  6. ^ "Author Query for 'P.H.Allen'". International Plant Names Index. 

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