Alice Eastwood

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Alice Eastwood
BornJanuary 19, 1859 (1859-01-19)
Toronto, Canada West
DiedOctober 30, 1953 (1953-10-31) (aged 94)
San Francisco, California, United States
Resting placeToronto Necropolis[1]
Scientific career
Author abbrev. (botany)Eastw.

Alice Eastwood (January 19, 1859 – October 30, 1953) was a Canadian American botanist. She is credited with building the botanical collection at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. She published over 310 scientific articles and authored 395 land plant species names, the fourth-highest number of such names authored by any female scientist.[2] There are seventeen currently recognized species named for her, as well as the genera Eastwoodia and Aliciella.


Alice Eastwood was born on January 19, 1859, in Toronto, Canada West, to Colin Skinner Eastwood and Eliza Jane Gowdey Eastwood.[3] Her father worked at the Toronto Asylum for the Insane.[4] When she was six her mother died;[5] Eastwood and her siblings were cared for by various relatives, and for a time, Alice and her sister were placed at the Oshawa Convent in Toronto.[3] In 1873, Eastwood and her siblings were reunited with their father and moved to Denver, Colorado.[3] In 1879, she graduated as valedictorian from East Denver High School,[3] where she then taught for ten years.[3][6]

Eastwood was a self-taught botanist and learned from published botany manuals including Gray’s Manual and the Flora of Colorado.[6][7] Her botanical knowledge led her to being asked to guide Alfred Russel Wallace up the summit of Grays Peak in Denver. Eastwood was also a member of Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell's Colorado Biological Association.[8]

In 1891, after reviewing Eastwood's specimen collection in Denver, Mary Katharine Brandegee, Curator of the Botany Department at the California Academy of Sciences, hired Eastwood to work in the academy's herbarium.[7] In 1892, she was promoted to a position as joint curator of the academy with Brandegee. By 1894, with the retirement of Brandegee, Eastwood was procurator and Head of the Department of Botany, a position she held until she retired in 1949.[4]

Eastwood died in San Francisco on October 30, 1953. The California Academy of Sciences retains a collection of her papers and works.[6]


Early in her career, Eastwood made collecting expeditions in Colorado and the Four Corners region. She became close with the Wetherill Family, and visited Alamo Ranch in Mesa Verde often, beginning in July 1889. Long before that, she was considered a part of the family, and so did not sign the guest register on later trips. Each time Eastwood visited, she was particularly welcomed by Al Wetherill, who shared an interest in her work. In 1892, he served as her guide on a 10-day trip to southeastern Utah to collect desert plants.[9][10]

Eastwood also made collecting expeditions to the edge of the Big Sur region, which at the end of the 19th century was a virtual frontier, since no roads penetrated the central coast beyond the Carmel Highlands. On those excursions, she discovered several plants, including Hickman's potentilla.

Eastwood is credited with saving the academy's type plant collection after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.[11] Departing from the curatorial conventions of her era, Eastwood segregated the type specimens from the main collection.[6] This classification system permitted her to retrieve 1,497 specimens from the damaged building.[12] The cabinet she had stored them in was damaged; using her apron, she lowered the specimens from a window to a friend as the fire after the earthquake approached, then commandeered a wagon. The specimens and records she saved were almost all that survived of the academy's collection.[4]

After the earthquake, before the academy had constructed a new building, Eastwood studied in herbaria in Europe and other U.S. regions, including the Gray Herbarium, the New York Botanical Garden, the National Museum of Natural History of Paris, the British Museum, and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.[3] In 1912, with completion of the new academy facilities at Golden Gate Park, Eastwood returned to the position of curator of the herbarium and reconstructed the lost part of the collection. She went on numerous collecting vacations in the Western United States, including Alaska (1914), Arizona, Utah and Idaho. Starting in 1928, Eastwood accompanied fellow botanist Susan Delano McKelvey on several collecting expeditions in the Southwest and they built a lasting collaboration, frequently corresponding and exchanging specimens.[13] By keeping the first set of each collection for the academy and exchanging the duplicates with other institutions, Eastwood was able to build the collection, Abrams noting that she contributed "thousands of sheets to the Academy's herbarium, personally accounting for its growth in size and representation of western flora". By 1942 she had built the collection to about one third of a million specimens, nearly three times the number of specimens destroyed in the 1906 fire.[6]

Eastwood is credited with publishing over 310 articles during her career. She served as editor of the biological journal Zoe and as an assistant editor for Erythea before the 1906 earthquake, and founded a journal, Leaflets of Western Botany (1932–1966), with John Thomas Howell.[7] Eastwood was director of the San Francisco Botanical Club for several years throughout the 1890s. In 1929, she helped to form the American Fuchsia Society.[1]

Her main botanical interests were western U.S. Liliaceae and the genera Lupinus, Arctostaphylos and Castilleja.



  • There are currently seventeen recognized species named for Eastwood, as well as the genera Aliciella, Eastwoodia and Eastwoodiella.
  • A member of the California Academy of Sciences since 1892, she was unanimously elected an honorary member of the academy in 1942.
  • In 1959, the CAS opened the Eastwood Hall of Botany
  • In 1903 she was one of only two women listed in American Men of Science to be denoted, by a star as among the top 25% of professionals in their discipline.[15]
  • In 1949, in recognition of her achievements, the American Fuchsia Society awarded her with its Medal of Achievement.[1]
  • She was honored in the binomial name of Boletus eastwoodiae, an attractive though poisonous bolete of western North America which she collected. However, this was renamed Boletus pulcherrimus due to a misidentification of type material.[16] It still bears the common name of Alice Eastwood's bolete.
  • Eastwood worked to save a redwood grove in Humboldt County, which was later named Alice Eastwood Memorial Grove.[6]

Plant species named after Eastwood[edit]

Genera named after Eastwood[edit]

See also[edit]

Selected publications online[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Eastwood, Alice". A Dictionary of the Fuchsia. Fuchsias in the City. 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  2. ^ Lindon, Heather L.; Gardiner, Lauren M.; Brady, Abigail; Vorontsova, Maria S. (5 May 2015). "Fewer than three percent of land plant species named by women: Author gender over 260 years". Taxon. 64 (2): 209–215. doi:10.12705/642.4.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Bonta, Marcia, 1940- (1991). Women in the field : America's pioneering women naturalists (1 ed.). College Station: Texas A & M University Press. pp. 93–102. ISBN 0-89096-467-X. OCLC 22623848.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b c Hartlaub, Peter (April 18, 2023). "The 1906 earthquake destroyed S.F. It made this woman a hero". San Francisco Chronicle.
  5. ^ Milius, Susan (November 5, 2020). "How passion, luck and sweat saved some of North America's rarest plants". ScienceNews. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Eastwood, Alice, 1859-1953, Biographical History". California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Rebecca Morin (March 29, 2012). "Celebrating Women's History Month: Alice Eastwood". Biodiversity Heritage Library. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  8. ^ Cockerell, Theodore D.A. (2004). Weber, William A. (ed.). The Valley of the Second Sons: Letters of Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell, a young English naturalist, writing to his sweetheart and her brother about his life in West Cliff, Wet Mountain Valley, Colorado, 1887-1890. Longmont, Colorado: Pilgrims Process. p. viii. ISBN 978-0971060999.
  9. ^ Fletcher, Maurine, S. (1977). The Wetherills of Mesa Verde: Autobiography of Benjamin Alfred Wetherill. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. 210.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ McNitt, Frank (1966) [1957]. Richard Wetherill: Anasazi (Revised ed.). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. p. 86.
  11. ^ Rossiter, Margaret W. (1982). Women scientists in America : struggles and strategies to 1940. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-2443-5. OCLC 8052928.
  12. ^ DeBakcsy, Dale (September 19, 2018). "A Bay of Botany: Alice Eastwood's Nine Decades and Three Hundred Thousand Specimens". Women You Should Know. Archived from the original on March 30, 2019. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  13. ^ Schofield, Edmund. "A Life Redeemed: Susan Delano McKelvey and the Arnold Aboretum" (PDF). Arnoldia. 47: 9–23. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 10, 2022. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  14. ^ International Plant Names Index.  Eastw.
  15. ^ a b c "Biography of Alice Eastwood". Bristlecone chapter, CNPS. Archived from the original on August 7, 2020. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  16. ^ Thiers HD, Halling RE (1976). "California Boletes V: Two New Species of Boletus". Mycologia. 68 (5). Mycologia, Vol. 68, No. 5: 976–83. doi:10.2307/3758713. JSTOR 3758713.
  17. ^ "Southwest Colorado Wildflowers, Mimulus eastwoodiae". Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  18. ^ "Southwest Colorado Wildflowers, Podistera eastwoodiae". Retrieved March 23, 2023.

Further reading[edit]

  • Abrams, Leroy (1949). "Alice Eastwood: Western Botanist". Pacific Discovery. 2 (1): 14–17.
  • Howell, John Thomas (1953). "Alice Eastwood: 1859-1953". Taxon. 3 (4): 98–100. doi:10.1002/j.1996-8175.1954.tb01564.x. JSTOR 1217779.
  • F.M. MacFarland; R.C. Miller; John Thomas Howell (1943–1949). "Biographical Sketch of Alice Eastwood". Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. Fourth series. 25: ix–xiv.
  • F.M. MacFarland; Veronica J. Sexton (1943–1949). "Bibliography of the Writings of Alice Eastwood". Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. Fourth series. 25: xv–xxiv.

External links[edit]