Francis Harper (biologist)

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Francis Harper
Born November 17, 1886
Southbridge, Massachusetts
Died November 17, 1972 (Aged 86)
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Citizenship United States
Alma mater Cornell University

Francis Harper (17 November 1886 – 17 November 1972) was an American naturalist. His research included studies of the Okefenokee Swamp and fieldwork in the north eastern United States and in northern Canada, and he also studied the 18th-century American naturalists John and William Bartram.[1] Harper authored new combinations for two species originally described by William Bartram, Garberia heterophylla and Roystonea elata.[2]

Harper received an A.B. in 1914 and a Ph.D. in 1925 from Cornell University. He taught briefly at Swarthmore College, but beyond that he worked for museums, government agencies and research agencies.[3] In 1914 Harper made his first trip to northern Canada on an expedition to Lake Athabasca[4] working as a zoologist for the Geological Survey of Canada.[1]

Between 1917 and 1919 Harper served as a rodent control officer in France[1] with the United States Army's 79th Division.[3] He returned to Athabasca in 1920,[3] Nueltin Lake in southern Keewatin in 1947 and the Ungava Peninsula in 1953, his last trip north.[4] Harper published notable works on the caribou of Keewatin, the birds of the Ungava Peninsula, and the Montagnais of the Ungava.[3]

From 1917 through the 1950s Harper spent significant time researching the work of the early North American naturalists John Bartram and his son William Bartram. Harper traced the Bartrams' travels in the American South and helped revive both scientific and popular interest in the Bartrams' work. Harper's research into the Bartrams was funded by grants from the John Bartram Association in Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society, and the Guggenheim Foundation among others. Harper published extensively on both of the Bartrams including annotated editions of John Bartram's "Diary of a Journey through the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida 1765-1766; William Bartram's "Report to Dr. John Fothergill 1773-1774" and an annotated naturalist's edition of William Bartram Travels... first published in Philadelphia in 1791.

Harper published on the mammals[5] and folklore[4] of the Okefenokee Swamp, including recordings of the local music. He also published on the "extinct and vanishing" mammals of the old world.[3]

His papers are held in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas.[3]


Harper authored about 135 publications[5] including

  • “Diary of a Journey through the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, from July 1, 1765 to April 10, 1766.” edited by Francis Harper. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n.s. vol. 33, part 1 (Dec. 1942), p. 1-122.
  • “Travels in Georgia and Florida, 1773-74. A Report to Dr. John Fothergill.” edited by Francis Harper. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n. s. vol. 33, part 2 (November 1943), p. 121-242.
  • The Travels of William Bartram: Naturalist’s Edition, edited by Francis Harper, originally published Yale Univ. Press: 1958; University of Georgia Press: (30 Sep 1998), ISBN 0-8203-2027-7.


  1. ^ a b c Norment, Christopher J. (March 2000). "Francis Harper (1886–1972)" (PDF). Arctic. 53 (1): 72–75. doi:10.14430/arctic837. Retrieved 6 Jan 2009. 
  2. ^ International Plant Names Index
  3. ^ a b c d e f Kenneth Spencer Memorial Library. "Guide to the Francis Harper Collection: Francis Harper papers, 1899-1973". Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  4. ^ a b c Palmer, Ralph S.; Trautman, Milton B, .; Trautman; Palmer; Storer (1973). "Francis Harper". The Auk. American Ornithologists' Union. 90 (3): 737–38. JSTOR 4084200. 
  5. ^ a b Palmer, Ralph S. (1973). "Francis Harper, 1886-1972". Journal of Mammalogy. American Society of Mammalogists. 54 (3): 800–01. doi:10.2307/1378993. JSTOR 1378993. 
  6. ^ IPNI.  F.Harper. 

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