CHAPTER VI. ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS AND THEIR IMPACT ON THE TORREY BOTANICAL SOCIETY
WILLIAM CAMPBELL STEERE
From 1958 to 1971 William Campbell Steere (1907-1989) was the chief executive officer of NYBG. In 1959 Steere was president of the Botanical Society of America. He was professor of biology and dean of the graduate division of Stanford University. Previous to that he was chair of the department of botany at the University of Michigan. He did a lot of research in the taxonomy of mosses, which he collected from the Andes to the Arctic.
Much knowledge of the world's northern flora of Alaska and the North can be traced to the research of William Steere. He made extensive collections in the tundra of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Iceland. His work in bryology (mosses and liverworts) remains so influential that the Missouri Botanical Garden maintains a fund for visiting scientists to study his specimens. The Steere Collection, which consists of more than 1,000 titles on bryology (the study of mosses), as well as about 2,000 pamphlets and reprints, was purchased from Steere in 1977. The library's bryology holdings comprise one of the world's finest bryological literature collections.
Cronquist's paper of 1957 became the book The Evolution and Classification of Flowering Plants published in 1968. The following according to Dr. James L. Reveal.
Arthur Cronquist and Arthur Holmgren, at Utah State University, initiated a study of the Intermountain West in 1959, with Cronquist concentrating on the multi-volume, illustrated flora of the Pacific Northwest with C. Leo Hitchcock and Marion Ownbey. He worked on the latter flora into the early 1970s when his focus moved southward. As senior author of the Intermountain Flora he championed the effort to summarize the plants of that regions in a second illustrated, several-volume flora.
As an educator, Cronquist wrote one of the finest botany text books of the 1960s. Introductory Botany and Basic Botany were widely used and translated into several languages. He taught numerous students, and several today teach at universities throughout the nation.
In 1965 he traveled to (then) Leningrad to talk to the Russian taxonomist Armen Takhtajan, and the two began a long and productive relationship. While both men published independently, and basically disagreed on many things, the two were in concert on many aspects of angiosperm phylogeny.
In 1973 Cronquist was the president of the Botanical Society of America.
Cronquist's book, The Evolution and Classification of Flowering Plants, set the stage for his future efforts, culminating in An integrated system of classification of flowering plants in 1981. It would be this later work that would set the stage for a massive renewal of interest in angiosperm phylogeny for here was a thorough work that could be tested using modern systematic means.
By the late 1960s, Cronquist moved into the category of senior statesman for botany. He lectured widely, was actively sought as a consultant, and wrote numerous articles on evolution, phylogeny and botany in general. He played major roles in the leading of national and international organizations, serving as president of several including the American Society for Plant Taxonomy.
In 1958 Edwin T. Moul was the president of TBC. He was a professor of biology at Rutgers University. In 1952-1953 he was president of the Phycological Society of America.
In 1959 the TBC president was Dr. George L. McNew (1908-1998), Director of the Boyce Thompson Institute. He was born in Alamogordo, New Mexico, the son of a rancher. He earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture from New Mexico A&M, now New Mexico State University. In 1935 he received his doctorate in plant pathology from Iowa State University. He pursued his interest in the chemical processes responsible for disease in plants at the Rockefeller Institute, the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, the U.S. Rubber Company, and Iowa State University, where he chaired the department of botany and plant pathology.
In 1949 he became managing director of Boyce Thompson Institute in Yonkers, New York. In 1952 he was president of the American Phytopathological Society and in 1970 he became president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. He served as president of the New York-New Jersey section of the American Chemical Society. Among his honors was an honorary doctorate from New Mexico State University in 1954, the naming of a dormitory there after him, and a Distinguished Alumnus award from Iowa State University in 1958. He retired in 1974. He was instrumental in bringing the Boyce Thompson Institute to the Cornell campus in 1978.
In 1960 the president was Charles A. Berger, S. J. (1901-1966). He was the TBC editor for ten years 1948 to 1959, and vice-president in 1949. Dr. Murray Buell took over the position of editor. This was the second time Rutgers University personnel held this position, the first one being that of M. A. Chrysler from 1934 to 1938.
Rev. Berger was born in Passaic, New Jersey. He got his undergraduate degree from Boston College and his Ph.D. in cytology from Johns Hopkins University. He taught at Loyola in Baltimore from 1926 to 1929 and at Woodstock College in Maryland in 1936 to 1940. He then became professor and chair of the Biology Department of Fordham University for some twenty-four years.
In 1961 the president was William C. Steere.
In 1961 Eleanor Yarrow (1920-1971) started the first of at least ten covers for the TBC field schedules. She was a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music and taught violin. In addition, she was an accomplished painter. She led weekly nature walks at the NYBG which were very popular. To the regret of many, she passed away at the height of her popularity.
In 1962 Lindsay Shepard Olive (1917- ) was president of the TBC. He was born in Florence, South Carolina. He received his Ph. D. in botany from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1942. He was on the faculty of the botany department at Columbia University, 1949-1968, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1968-1982. Professor Olive was a distinguished mycologist whose research focused on the cytology, genetics, morphology, and taxonomy of fungi and mycetozoans.
In 1963 one of Cronquist's former teachers, Bassett Maguire (1904-1991), became the TBC president. He went to Utah State University in 1931 and remained until 1943, collecting from Montana to Arizona, taking a year out in 1938 to attend Cornell and complete his doctoral degree. By the turn of the century, Cornell University was attracting many students, who on finishing went far and wide to educate the next generation. One was Bassett Maguire. Although he continued to collect in the West after he joined the staff of the New York Botanical Garden, his enthusiasm for the tropics was greater, and so his skill and drive were directed there. In 1944 he led the first of 42 botanical expeditions to the sandstone Guayana highland of northern South America.
Since 1928 the NYBG had run the Guayana Highland Program of southern Venezuela and contiguous British Guiana and Brazil. Beginning around 1944, Maguire and John J. Wurdack and associates, carried out eighteen expeditions to some twenty-five strategically located tabular mountains of Guayana (Maguire 1958:244-245). At the May 16, 1961 TBC meeting he gave a talk on South America.
In 1963 thirty-four field localities were visited.
In 1964 Frank G. Lier was the president. In 1964 the field section was continuing to keep a section of the AT cleared in the Kittatinny Range.
In 1965 James E. Gunckel was the President while the Vice-president was Arthur Cronquist. In 1969 he edited a book entitled Current Topics in Plant Science.
In 1966 the president of the NYBG was William J. Crotty. On February 20, 1962 Dr. Crotty talked about "Nucleo-cytoplasmic Events in Fern Rhizoid Differentiation."
In 1967 the president of TBC was Ralph H. Cheney. He was from the Biology Department of Brooklyn College. He was president during the centennial year of the TBC. He had the honor of officiating at many of the meetings that honored the Torrey Society during the year.
In 1968 the president of TBC was Barbara F. Palser. At the May 15, 1966 TBC meeting Dr. Palser of Rutgers University spoke of the "Floral Morphological Evidence Concerning the Relationship of the Diapensiaceae to the Ericales."
In 1968 Columbia University de-emphasized its graduate program in botany and so also its co-program with the NYBG. A new Graduate Studies Program at NYBG was formed with a branch of Hunter College, later renamed Lehman. The agreement was drafted with the help of Bassett Maguire, Horward Irwin, and Arthur Cronquist for the NYBG and Leonard Leaf, Mary J. Kingkade, Norman R. Eaton, and Jack Valdovinos from C.U.N.Y. (Lentz and Bellengi 1996:412) Students can register concurrently at their selected university and at the NYBG.
In addition, the NYBG has an affiliated program with Yale University with their School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The emphasis here in on agroforestry, forest ecology, and silviculture.
Other educational changes involving the NYBG was the new program with CERC: Center for Environmental Research and Conservation of Columbia University. There was a new emphasis on conservation. The Anthropology Department was also included because the CERC had a focus on plant-human interactions and mechanisms for future conservation of resources.
On October 22, 1968 a slide program of the Asian gardens was presented by T. H. Everett of the NYBG.
In 1969 the president of TBC was Lawrence P. Miller.
In 1970 Lawrence J. Crockett was the TBC president. Dr. Crockett has been very active in the TBC, holding over time many an office in the organization. From 1971 to 1973 he was field chair. Dr. Crockett became an expert on the life of John Torrey, writing something close to a score of articles centering on the great early botanist. In 1987 he engineered the re-dedication of the Torrey grave monument in Stirling, Morris County, New Jersey.
William Steere retired to work on mosses.
HOWARD SAMUEL IRWIN
From 1971 to 1979 Howard Samuel Irwin was the chief executive officer of NYBG. His boyhood home was on Long Island. He had spent four years in Guyana as a Fulbright instructor in biology at Queens College in Georgetown. This started his career interest in tropical botany. He got his Ph.D. from the University of Texas under Billie Turner. He studied systematics, especially chromosome numbers. He was Research Associate in the NYBG herbarium in 1960. One of his associates was Harold Moldenke, a graduate of the Graduate Studies Program at the NYBG and a well-known expert on the Verbenaceae. In August 1963 he was in Surinam with botanists Ghillean T. Prance, Noel H. Holmgren, and Thomas R. Soderstrom.
In 1971 Irwin worked on getting the government grant for proposed ecological research at what became the Carey Arboretum. In 1972 he became the executive director of the NYBG. In 1973 he was the Vice President.
Irwin rose to the office of President in 1979 and Consultant to the Board of Managers in 1980. He wrote the text for Roadside Flowers of Texas (1961) to accompany the paintings of Mary Motz Wills. America's Garden Book (1996) by Louis and James Bush-Brown was first published in 1939 and was completely revised and updated by Howard S. Irwin of the New York Botanical Garden who also oversaw the latest edition.
Then the bottom fell out! The big New York City budget crunch occurred in the mid-1970s. The problems were so huge that Irwin (1996:370) remarked that "I was six years into this new realm and began to dread the days. The presidency was a suit that did not fit . . ." He added that "I was near collapse" and he resigned in August of 1979. In June 1980 he vacated the Stone Cottage in the Garden. He went on to the BBG.
BIRTH OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT
Rachel Louise Carson (1907-1964) was born on a farm in Springdale, Pennsylvania. She got a master's degree in marine zoology from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Her dismay and outrage at the impact of pesticides on human health and the environment impelled her to undertake the formidable task of alerting the public. Despite the discovery in 1960 that she had breast cancer, she continued the meticulous research that resulted in the 1962 publication of Silent Spring-the compelling book that inspired the environmental movement. On June 3, 1962, she testified before a Senate subcommittee on the use of pesticides and legislation was subsequently passed regulating their use.
In 1964 the Wilderness Act passed, establishing a process for permanently protecting some lands from development. The following year, 1965, the Sierra Club brought suit to protect New York's Storm King Mountain from a Con-Ed power project. The case established a precedent, allowing the Club standing for a non-economic interest in the case. Then in 1969 Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act and created the Environmental Protection Agency. This was the first major U.S. environmental legislation. In 1970 Congress passed the Clean Air Act that greatly expanded the protection began by the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955. On April 22, 1970 the First Earth Day was held. At the end of 1973 Congress passed the Endangered Species Act.
THE GREEN-HOUSE EFFECT
As early as the International Geophysical Year 1957-58 there was some indication that the earth was heading for trouble. In that year scientists began taking readings of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. Until then it was believed that, while industrialization generated huge amounts of CO2, the oceans absorbed enough of it to maintain a constant balance in the atmosphere. The Mauna Loa series showed that the proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere was rising steadily. But little was done with these findings. It was not until the 1970s that something more specific was done. A series of meetings, mostly technical, often held under the auspices of various United Nations agencies, began exploring the enormous implications of these findings for the world's climate.
It was not, however, until the summer of 1988 that the issue of the green-house effect came to more public attention. At a Congressional hearing, with the temperature in Washington at 98 degrees, James E. Hansen, head of the government's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, told the senators that the unusually warm temperatures of the 1980s were almost certainly being caused by the accumulating greenhouse gases, not by natural variation. It was the first time that a recognized authority had stated conclusively the link between man-made gases and changing weather patterns.
1960's ENVIRONMENTAL "RADICALISM"
In the 1960's there was some concern about conservation in the TBC. At the November 1, 1960 TBC meeting, Dr. Richard H. Goodwin lectured on "Natural Areas, Their Preservation and Use" using the Nature Conservancy and its preserves as examples. On November 21, 1961 Charles Callison of the National Audubon Society talked about "The Battle for Wilderness" and discussed necessary conservation measures. On December 18, 1962 Paul Bruce Dowling of TNC talked about the organization.
At the annual meeting of January 19, 1965 a speaker urged the members to write to their representatives in Congress to prevent Con Edison from building the proposed Con-Ed power plant on top of Storm King Mountain. In 1965 there were 46 field trips under Harold L. Clum.
In 1966 the president was William J. Crotty.
In 1967 the president was Ralph H. Cheney. He was professor of biology at New York University.
In 1967 at the 100th Anniversary Symposium at Boyce Thompson one of the many talks was by Leonard H. Weinstein on "The Effects of Air Pollution on Plant Physiology." On May 6, 1967 at the 100th anniversary celebration at the BBG, the Director of BBG, Dr. George Avery, welcomed the Torreyites. The Research Department at Kitchawan Labs presented their research. Chairman Gunther Stotsky then presented three speakers on the subject of air pollution.
Still at the 100th Anniversary year of celebrations, this time at Fordham University, there was a lot of talk about air pollution and some on water pollution. Dr. Robert H. Daines of Rutgers showed slides of the damage done to plants by the various air pollutants.
On May 20, 1969 Dr. Kay Jacobson talked on "The Diagnosis and Prevention of Injury to Plants by Air Pollution."
At the January 20, 1970 council meeting a letter was passed around for signatures, endorsing the actions of Torrey Pines Extension Campaign. The Torreyites, however, were a bit concerned. "Since this action might jeopardize our tax-free status as an institution, the letter will be held in abeyance until some legal advice has been sought on the matter."
Dr. Greller at the October 20, 1970 meeting suggested that the Club interest itself in the conservation problems of the New York Metropolitan Area with talks on the subject, field trips to areas desirable of preserving and other means. Dr. Greller suggested that a committee be formed to study the possibilities. He offered to head such a committee.
In the Torrey Botanical Society archives, there is a letter dated November 4, 1970 from President Lawrence Crockett to Andrew Greller asking if the latter would like to be on an Environmental Protection Committee. It was also suggested that Dr. Greller pick some other members for such a committee.
A mimeographed sheet declared that the role of the Environmental Protection Committee would be a) to provide technical assistance to local conservation groups and provide them with speakers; b) take measures to support these groups; and c) increase the number of Torrey Botanical field trips.
The mimeographed sheet also expressed the desire to have the Council go on record as supporting the East Queens Ad Hoc Committee for Nature, Habitat 2000, the Hollis Hills Civic Association, the Queens College Ecology Club, and other organizations in their efforts to retain and upgrade paths on both sides of Grand Central Parkway from Bell Boulevard to the city line and to investigate the possibilities of retaining Pea Pond (a glacial kettle hole).
At the November 17, 1970 Council Meeting, Dr. Greller as chairman of the Environmental Preservation Committee, brought forth the proposals of his committee. Since most of the emphasis at this time was on Pea Pond in Queens, there followed a lengthy discussion as to policy for the Torrey Club. Members agreed that no one present was against the preservation of green areas, but should the Council speak for the whole membership on any specific proposal. They wanted a statement of policy to be drawn up. They did agree, however, that the Field Committee should put the accent on the areas that need to be preserved.
But from time to time, the Club has tried to help the case of conservation. Examples include Island Beach, Van Cortlandt Park Swamp, Indiana Sand Dunes, the prevention of the granting of mining rights in New York forest preserves, and the attempt by Con Ed to putting a hydroelectric plant at Storm King. (Clum 1968:657)
In response to some of the hesitations, Greller called for an Environmental Protection Committee meeting on November 30, 1970 in the office of Herman Becker at the NYBG to better define their approach. In the files was a December 2, 1970 letter addressed to the council members announcing that members of the Environmental Committee were Herman Becker, Andrew Greller, and Thomas Schweitzer. The letter mentioned that the chairs of the Field and Local Floral Committees would be members of the Environmental Protection Committee.
At the December 15, 1970 meeting of the Council they allotted $100 in mailing costs for the EPC. By this time the name of the Committee had been changed to the Environmental Preservation Committee.
On February 13, 1971 the EPC released a statement about their organization for news release. The flier boldly proclaimed "Many scientists are looking for the opportunity to make a contribution to the struggle to protect our threatened environment."
Dr. Greller wrote (9/17/2000): "As I remember I was trying to get the Torrey Club to support my efforts to have NYC recognize the 'Northeast Queens Terminal Moraine Natural Area.' That whole effort just died - lack of community support or strong resistance by the politicians or both, I am guessing. Nothing came of that committee - I don't think I ever held a single meeting. I led two Torrey field trips to the terminal moraine area in the early 1970's. One trip was covered by local newspapers and the Dailey News (headline of story: "Walk in the Rain to Save Terrain"). That was to protest the widening of Grand Central Parkway in Alley Park, Queens."
From the files we know there were a lot of members in support of the EPC. Even the head of the NYBG, Howard S. Irwin, who was on the Council, joined the Environmental Preservation Committee. He was willing to speak before groups and act as consultant. By September 17, 1971 the EPC had a list of twelve members willing to be speakers, including Howard S. Irwin.
On May 16, 1971 Greller led a Walk Along the Terminal Moraine. He was trying to have Cunningham, Potamogeton Pond, and Alley Pond Parks incorporated into the Terminal Moraine Natural Area System. This would elevate the status of these parks to that of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
At the May 18, 1971 Council meeting, Dr. Greller said that the Environmental Preservation Committee did not get many calls for Earth Day. He added that the Pea Pond fight had resulted in good publicity for the TBC. But then all of a sudden Greller tired of the struggle. He suggested that the EPC find a new chairman. In a mimeographed sheet he let all know that "Next semester I would like to get back to some research and will not be able to take a major role in this committee. Please nominate one member from the following list:"
Herman Becker -- NYBG
John A. Behnke -- New York University
Edward H. Buckley -- Boyce Thompson Institute
Lawrence Crockett -- City College
Albert Ehrlich -- St. Mary's Hospital, Hoboken
Calvin Heusser -- New York University
Jerome Metzner -- John Jay College
James Quinn -- Rutgers University
Robert Schumacher -- Newark State College, Union, NJ
Thomas Schweitzer -- Great Neck Jr. High School
Dewayne Torgeson -- Boyce Thompson Institute
Matilde Weingartner -- Staten Island Museum (and TBS recording secretary)
E. Ruth Witkus -- Fordham University
And Greller had already taken another post. At the January 19, 1971 Council Meeting President Crockett appointed Dr. Greller to the post of chairman of the Local Flora Committee.
About the last talk about air pollution occurred at the May 2, 1972 regular meeting of the TBC. Dr. Craig Hibben of the Kitchawan Research Laboratory gave a talk on "Plant Resistance to Air Pollution." To my knowledge for almost thirty years now the TBC/TBS has avoided the topic of environmental pollution.