The Role of Botanists During World War II In the Pacific Theatre

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact

Narrow Your Results


Filter Your Results

Smithsonian Secretaries Information

Close Browse records and papers of the Smithsonian Secretaries, from 1846 until today. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by individuals who have held that office.

Expeditions Information

Close Browse records and papers documenting scientific and collecting expeditions either affiliated with the Smithsonian, or with which Smithsonian researchers participated. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by geographic regions predominantly represented in expedition records.

Professional Societies Information

Close Browse records of professional societies closely associated with the Smithsonian, that focus on areas of scientific research and museum studies. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by major topics and disciplines.


  • Author states that the purpose of his essay is to outline certain aspects of the experience of Allied botanists during the war in the Pacific. The outbreak of World War II necessitated basic scientific research in many areas, and the author notes the involvement of the Smithsonian Institution in various matters. For example, a Smithsonian ornithologist's booklet on the natural history of camouflage assisted important developments in camouflage techniques. The procurement of strategic materials was deemed essential: botanists worked to uncover sources and supplies of quinine from Cinchona bark, labored to find alternatives for natural rubber, and toiled to solve shortages in other natural products caused by Japanese occupation of prime resource areas.
  • The Smithsonian received various drawings and great numbers of specimens sent from the field to the United States National Herbarium by civilian botanists and military personnel, and issued a "Field Collector's Manual in Natural History" to guide those efforts. The latter part of the essay reviews the experiences and fates of individual Allied botanists in the Pacific area who faced first-hand the perils of Japanese occupation.He notes that at the time a mutual relationship philosophy existed between science and self-culture that was expressed as the increase and diffusion of knowledge: individuals could educate themselves through observation and discovery. According to the author, this viewpoint, together with the expectation that the diffusion of truths was expected to multiply the chances of discovery to supply new knowledge, appealed to those urging inexpensive but substantive education of the working class.
  • The author argues that Smithson had been exposed to that philosophy and made his bequest to support the education of the American public through the same self-culture processes as various organizations had supported in Great Britain.


  • United States National Herbarium
  • Field Collector's Manual in Natural History


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Two hundred thirty-one Notes accompany the article.

Contained within

Science and the Pacific War: Science and Survival in the Pacific, 1939-1945 (Book)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Medicine
  • Camouflage
  • Ethnobotany
  • Occupied territories
  • Botany
  • Ecology
  • Plants
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • World War, 1939-1945--Occupied territories
  • Botanists
  • Medicinal plants
  • Natural resources


Pacific Ocean

Physical description

pgs. 83-118

Full Record

View Full Record