National Geographic : 1950 Apr
Learned Members of the Royal Society Visit Kew's Herbarium The Royal Society, founded three centuries ago, is Great Britain's most distinguished scientific organiza tion. John Winthrop (1606-76), popular governor of Connecticut, was one of its original 119 Fellows. Here in the right foreground Sir Edward J. Salisbury (back to camera), Kew's Director and the Society's biological secretary, converses with Sir Charles Darwin (facing camera), grandson of the author of Origin of Species (page 500). Sir Robert Robinson, president of the Society, stands on the extreme right. tigation is adding files of microscopic slides to Kew's range of identification aids (page 498). On near-by shelves of the thrice-enlarged Herbarium building is an equally rich store of botanic books. Many of the more than 50,000 housed here are literally priceless. With such sources in type specimens and descriptions available for matching or com parison, Kew's experts identify new plant arrivals without a "probable possible shadow of doubt, no possible doubt whatever" (p. 490). Kew's master file of authentically named specimens is the standard of authority. A Mecca of the Botanic World And just as the flower beds and glasshouses are open to fellow gardeners, Kew's Herbar ium files are open to trained taxonomists. I realized how Kew is the mecca of the botanic world when I met here the dean of American taxonomists, Dr. E. D. Merrill, Director Emeritus of the Arnold Arboretum. With practiced hands he pulled some of his twoscore-year-old specimens out of Kew's files and added: "My old herbarium in Manila's Botanical Gardens is now destroyed; but here at Kew, as in Washington, are duplicates." The Herbarium's Keeper, Dr. W. B. Turrill, related to Merrill how some of the treasured files were moved into Oxford and Gloucester shire to spread the risk from incendiary raids. The prodigious task of rearranging them again at Kew after hostilities ceased was com pleted in less than 12 months. No one smokes inside the Herbarium's locked doors; fire losses in the files could not be restored.