Edmund Ware Sinnott

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1947 at the AAAS

Edmund Ware Sinnott (February 5, 1888 in Cambridge, Massachusetts – January 6, 1968 in New Haven, Connecticut) was an American botanist and prolific textbook author. He is best known for his work in plant morphology.


Sinnott received his A.B. in 1908, his M.A. in 1910, and his Ph.D. in 1913 all from Harvard. He had studied in Australia with Arthur J. Eames from 1910-1911. Upon graduation, he became an instructor at Harvard, and worked with I. W. Bailey, the anatomist. From 1915-1928, he was at the Connecticut Agricultural College at Storrs, becoming Professor of Botany and Genetics. From 1928-1939, he was Professor of Botany at Barnard College and chair of the Botany Department at Columbia University (1939-1940). In 1940, he moved to Yale University to become Sterling Professor of Botany, chair of the Botany Department (1940-1956), director of the Marsh Botanical Garden (1940-1950), dean of the Graduate School (1950-1956) and director of Sheffield Scientific School (1945-1956).

He was also made editor of the American Journal of Botany, member of the National Academy of Sciences, and president of the Botanical Society of America, the American Society of Naturalists and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

He retired in 1956 and died in New Haven in 1968.


Throughout his life, Sinnott was a prolific author; he wrote ninety scientific articles and many textbooks. His works include Botany, Principles and Problems (1923, sixth edition in 1963), Principles of Genetics (1925, third edition in 1934), Laboratory Manual for Elementary Botany (1927), and Plant Morphogenesis (1960). After World War II, Sinnott devoted much of his time to writing about science in society, forming the basis for the books Cell and Psyche (1950), Two Roads to Truth (1953), The Biology of the Spirit (1955), Life and Mind (1956), Matter, Mind, and Man (1957) and The Bridge of Life: From Matter to Spirit (1966).

Additionally, Sinnott contributed to the field of Colonial and early American Architecture with his book, "Meetinghouse & Church in Early New England" (1963), with photographs by Jerauld Manter.

In his teaching, Sinnott stressed the idea of scientific discovery and the importance of making careful measurements and correctly interpreting data. He endeavored to explain the organism as an integrated whole from the sum of its parts, processes and history.