Finding Aids to Personal Papers and Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 7321
Ward, Lester Frank, 1841-1913
Lester Frank Ward Papers, 1882-1913, with related materials to circa 1965
Lester Frank Ward (1841-1913), paleontologist and sociologist, was born in Joliet, Illinois. After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, he moved to Washington, D.C. From 1865 to 1881, Ward was employed by the United States Treasury Department. During this period he studied at Columbian College (now The George Washington University) from which he received the A.B. degree in 1869, the LL.B. degree in 1871, and the A.M. degree in 1872. In 1882, Ward was appointed Assistant Geologist in the United States Geological Survey (USGS). He served the USGS for the remainder of his career in the federal government, receiving promotions to Geologist in 1883, and Paleontologist in 1892. In addition to his USGS work, Ward was appointed Honorary Curator of the Department of Fossil Plants in the United States National Museum in 1882. He remained in charge of the national collections of fossil plants until his resignation from the USGS in 1905. In that year he accepted a faculty appointment at Brown University, where he remained until his death.
Ward was considered one of the foremost paleobotanists of his time. His work with the USGS concentrated upon the relation of fossil plants to geology, and their value and importance in stratigraphic investigations. He also made valuable contributions to paleobotany by compiling extensive indices of the genera and species of fossil plants and their places in the published record. His scientific bibliography included over one hundred and fifty titles.
He is probably best remembered for his pioneering work in sociology. Between 1883 and his death, he completed several important works including Dynamic Sociology (1883), Outlines of Sociology (1898), Pure Sociology (1903), and Applied Sociology (1906).
This collection consists primarily of incoming and outgoing correspondence documenting Lester Frank Ward's paleobotanical research and his work as Honorary Curator in charge of the United States National Museum (USNM) collection of fossil plants. Also included are letters concerning his official duties with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The correspondence concerns the acquisition and identification of specimens; the preparation and publication of scientific manuscripts; field work and expeditions; and administrative matters. Ward corresponded with most of the prominent paleobotanists of the late nineteenth century including Leo Lesquereux, John Strong Newberry, and Arthur Hollick. Other correspondents include USNM and USGS scientific and administrative staff and personnel of domestic and foreign museums, universities, and research institutions. The correspondence does not touch upon Ward's sociological theories and writings. Researchers interested in that aspect of his career should consult collections of Ward's papers at Brown University and the Library of Congress.
The collection also includes a small amount of correspondence of Ward's assistant and colleague Frank Hall Knowlton; a photograph of Ward taken in his USNM office in 1886; and a pencil sketch of Ward.
Researchers should also consult Record Unit 220, records of the Department of Botany, United States National Museum, for other material documenting Ward's career at the USNM.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Ward, Lester Frank, 1841-1913
- Lesquereux, Leo, 1806-1889
- Newberry, J. S. (John Strong), 1822-1892
- Hollick, Charles Arthur, 1857-1933
- Knowlton, Frank Hall, 1860-1926
- Geological Survey (U.S.)
- United States National Museum. Department of Fossil Plants
- Brown University
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7321, Lester Frank Ward Papers