Finding Aids to Personal Papers and Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 7270
Walker, Egbert H. (Egbert Hamilton), 1899-1991
Egbert Hamilton Walker Papers, 1938-1961
Egbert Hamilton Walker (1899-1991), botanist, was born in Chicago, Illinois. At age two and a half, Walker was diagnosed with polio. His illness, which had been left untreated for so many years, left him with one good arm and a slightly damaged left leg.
After receiving his B.A. degree from the University of Michigan in 1922, he spent four years as an instructor at Canton Christian College (Lingnan University) in Canton, China. In 1926, with the help of Professor Harley Harris Bartlett of the University of Michigan, Walker entered the University of Wisconsin. He received a M.S. degree in botany in 1928 for his paper, Fifty-one common ornamental trees of the Lingnan University campus.
After leaving Wisconsin in 1928, Walker began work in the Division of Plants, United States National Museum at the Smithsonian Institution. Walker spent much of his time reorganizing the neglected, Old World collections and prepared reports on his progress in 1934, 1941, and 1943. Walker became the department's Assistant Curator in 1942 and Associate Curator in 1947. When the Division was reorganized into the Department of Botany in 1947, he was assigned to the Division of Phanerogams.
In 1928, Walker began work with Elmer Drew Merrill to compile a comprehensive bibliography on the literature of Chinese botany. The project was officially recognized as a joint effort between the Smithsonian Institution and the New York Botanical Garden in 1931 when Merrill was Director of the latter institution. The resulting publication was A Bibliography of Eastern Asiatic Botany, published in 1938. A Revision of the Eastern Asiatic Myrsinaceae eventually became Walker's dissertation for which he received his Ph.D. in botany from Johns Hopkins University in 1940.
During World War II, Walker and the staff at the United States National Herbarium became involved in various wartime efforts such as the preparation of survival manuals, pamphlets and articles for the army. Another wartime effort was a Servicemen's Collecting Program, proposed by Harley Harris Bartlett and developed by Walker. As the primary contact for the project, Walker received many plant specimens, primarily from servicemen stationed in Guam, the Aleutian Islands, and Okinawa, Japan.
When the Scientific Investigation of the Ryukyu Islands (SIRI) botanical program was developed by the Pacific Science Board of the National Research Council, Walker was selected to implement the program. In 1951, he left for Okinawa to conduct field work there and the surrounding islands. Walker would make three additional research trips to the area in 1953, 1957, and 1966. This led to the publication of Important Trees of the Ryukyu Islands in 1954 and later, the Flora of Okinawa and the Southern Ryukyu Islands in 1976.
Walker retired from the Smithsonian staff in June 1959 after 30 years. He continued his research on a supplemental edition to A Bibliography of Eastern Asian Botany as a consultant with the American Institute of Biological Sciences in Washington D.C. from 1959 to1960. The supplement, along with the first volume is considered his most important contribution to botany, was eventually published in 1960.
Beginning in 1961, Walker spent the majority of his time writing and revising the Flora of Okinawa and the Southern Ryukyu Islands supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation to the Pacific Science Board of the National Academy of Science. He returned to the Smithsonian staff in 1965 as a Research Associate to the Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History and continued his work there until 1987.
Walker conducted botanical field work specifically in Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands, but also in New Zealand, Japan, the Philippine Islands, Hawaii, the Johnston Islands, Guam, Thailand, and Vietnam. He was vice president (1944) and president (1949-1950) of the Botanical Society of Washington and a member of the Botanical Society of Japan.
- June 12, 1899
- born in Chicago, Illinois
- Bachelor of Arts, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
- Instructor, Canton Christian College (Lingnan University), China
- Master of Science, University of Wisconsin
- Aid, United States National Museum, Division of Plants
- February 18, 1929
- married Elsie Howell
- November 8, 1930
- divorced Elsie Howell
- April 10, 1936
- married Dorothy Kemball
- published, A Bibliography of Eastern Asiatic Botany
- awarded Oberly Prize, administered by the National Library of Agriculture, for the A Bibliography of Eastern Asiatic Botany
- January 20, 1939
- birth of first child, William King
- Doctor of Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University
- March 11, 1941
- birth of second child, Jeanne Kemball
- Assistant Curator, United States National Museum, Department of Biology, Division of Plants
- Vice President, Botanical Society of Washington
- Associate Curator, United States National Museum, Department of Botany, Division of Phanerogams
- delegate for the Smithsonian Institution, Seventh Pacific Science Conference, New Zealand
- field work, New Zealand
- President, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club
- President, Botanical Society of Washington
- Civilian Specialist, Scientific Investigation of the Ryukyu Islands (program of the Pacific Science Board of the National Research Council)
- delegate for Scientific Investigation of the Ryukyu Islands, Eighth Pacific Science Conference, Philippines
- field work, Luzon Island in the Philippines, Hawaii, Johnston Island, Guam, and Okinawa, Japan
- published, Important Trees of the Ryukyu Islands
- delegate, Ninth Pacific Science Conference, Thailand
- speaker, Seventy-Fifth Annual Meeting of the Botanical Society of Japan
- field work, Okinawa, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines
- retired from Smithsonian Institution
- published, A Bibliography of Eastern Asiatic Botany. Supplement
- awarded the Oberly Award, administered by the National Library of Agriculture for the supplement to A Bibliography of Eastern Asiatic Botany
- Research Associate, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
- lecturer, Eleventh Pacific Science Conference, Japan
- professional trip, Okinawa, Japan
- published, Flora of Okinawa and the Southern Ryukyu Islands
- March 10, 1991
The papers of Egbert Hamilton Walker were transferred to the Smithsonian Archives from the Hunt Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1977. Subsequently, two additional transfers of papers were gifted by Egbert Walker in 1978 and 1979. In 1995, Walker's autobiographical notes were transferred from the Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History. In 2002, the Smithsonian Institution Press project file for the Flora of Okinawa and the Southern Ryukyu Islands was duplicated and filed within the subject series of these papers.
The Archives would like to thank Priscilla Foley for conducting the preliminary processing of the Walker Papers in the Fall of 2000 as a part of a graduate internship with the University of Maryland.
These papers document the career and life of Egbert Hamilton Walker, a Smithsonian Institution botanist whose taxonomic research centered on the Myrsinaceae of East Asia. Types of documentation include correspondence, reports, copies and drafts of manuscripts, bibliographic card files, and autobiographical notes.
The papers of Egbert Hamilton Walker primarily pertain to the research, funding, and preparation for the Flora of Okinawa and the Southern Ryukyu Islands. This publication was the result of over twenty years of research from Walker's time at the Department of Botany, United States National Museum to his time as Research Associate at the Department of Botany at the National Museum of Natural History. Primary correspondents with regards to this publication include Tetsuo Amano, Sumihiko Hatusima, Tetsuo Koyama and Shinjun Tawada.
Papers relating to the research, funding, and preparation for A Bibliography of Eastern Asiatic Botany and its supplement are also well represented. Reports on the Servicemen's Collecting Program developed by Walker during World War II, and the Scientific Investigations in the Ryukyu Islands botanical program initiated by the Pacific Science Board of the National Research Council and implemented by Walker are also documented in these papers.
Walker's primary correspondents from his early years at the Smithsonian until his retirement include botanists Harley Harris Bartlett of the University of Michigan, Elmer Drew Merrill of Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University and Joseph Francis Rock.
Walker's autobiographical notes were written around 1978. The appendices to his autobiography pertain to his experiences in China from 1923 to 1926; the Old World collections in the United States National Herbarium; Walker's field work, publications, and conferences he attended; the Walker family Christmas letters; and the editor of A Bibliography of Eastern Asiatic Botany.
For records documenting Bartlett and Walker's research on Sumatran plants, see accession T89024, from the Department of Botany, United States National Museum. In addition, record unit 7271 Rolla Kent Beattie Paper's, circa 1928-1947 include correspondence between Beattie and Walker concerning Japanese ferns and grasses.
Field notes pertaining to Walker's research in New Zealand, the Eastern United States, Japan, and the Philippines are included in the Collector's Field Books and Miscellaneous Notes of the Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Walker, Egbert H. (Egbert Hamilton), 1899-1991
- Amano, Tetsuo, 1912-
- Hatusima, Sumihiko
- Koyama, Tetsuo, 1935-
- Tawada, Shinjun, 1907-
- Bartlett, Harley Harris, 1886-1960
- Merrill, Elmer D. (Elmer Drew), 1876-1956
- Rock, Joseph Francis Charles, 1884-1962
- United States National Museum. Department of Botany
- National Museum of Natural History (U.S.). Department of Botany
- University of Michigan
- Arnold Arboretum
- United States. National Herbarium
- Canton Christian College
- University of Wisconsin
- Johns Hopkins University
- United States National Museum. Division of Plants
- United States National Museum. Division of Phanerogams
- American Institute of Biological Sciences
- Botanical Society of Washington (Washington, D.C.)
- Botanical Society of Japan
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7270, Egbert Hamilton Walker Papers