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

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Summary

  • 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.

Author

Howard, Richard A

Editor

MacLeod, Roy M

Subject

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

Category

Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography

Notes

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, SIHistory@si.edu

Date

2000

Topic

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

Place

Pacific Ocean

Physical description

pgs. 83-118

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