Guide to the Katherine Esau Papers

Preliminary arrangement and description by Special Collections staff; latest revision by A. Demeter on September 30, 2008.
Department of Special Collections
Davidson Library
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
Phone: (805) 893-3062
Fax: (805) 893-5749
© 2010
The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

Katherine Esau Papers, 1870-1990 [bulk dates 1935-1987]

Collection number: UArch FacP 23

Department of Special Collections

Davidson Library

University of California, Santa Barbara
Processed by:
Preliminary arrangement and description by Special Collections staff
Date completed:
Sept. 30, 2008
Encoded by:
A. Demeter
© 2010 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Katherine Esau Papers
Dates: 1870-1990
Bulk Dates: 1935-1987
Collection number: UArch FacP 23
Creator: Esau, Katherine, 1898-1997
Collection Size: 8 linear feet (16 document boxes and 1 oversize box).
Repository: University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Dept. of Special Collections
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
Abstract: The collection contains copies of all of Esau's publications and research notebooks. There is also personal and biographical material including her awards, correspondence, and family history.
Physical location: Del Sur, University Archives, 29A; 30B (oversize).
Languages: English

Access Restrictions

Access to personal recommendations and reviews in Series VII restricted, pending review.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.

Preferred Citation

Katherine Esau Papers. UArch FacP 23. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Acquisition Information

Material donated by Jennifer Thorsch, executer of Esau's estate, 1995.


Katherine Esau (1898-1997), professor of biology at the University of California Santa Barbara, is best known as the author of the textbooks Plant Anatomy (1953) and Anatomy of Seed Plants (1960) and for her research on plant diseases and viruses, particularly on agricultural crops. In addition to her textbooks, Esau published over 100 articles. She was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1940, was the sixth woman chosen as a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1957), and was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush.
Esau was born in 1898 to a German Mennonite family in Ekaterinoslav, Russia (now Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine) where her father served as mayor in the years before the Russian Revolution. She studied agricultural science in Moscow, Russia, and, after the Revolution in Berlin, Germany, where her family fled to avoid persecution by the Bolsheviks. Shortly after Katherine's graduation in 1922, the Esau family immigrated to the United States and Katherine continued to study plant anatomy at the University of California, Davis. Since UC Davis did not yet award doctorates at that time, she was granted her doctorate for her UC Davis-based research through UC Berkeley in 1931, at which point she joined the faculty of the Biology Department at UC Davis.
In 1963, Dr. Esau moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she continued her research with former UC Davis botanist, and later UCSB Chancellor, Dr. Vernon I. Cheadle. Dr. Esau's research centered on the structure of plant tissues and the means by which viruses and other pathogens spread through the phloem. She was one of the first plant biologists to use an electron microscope and in 1969 was given an electron microscope solely for her use. She retired from teaching in 1965, but continued her research and writing until 1994.
Please also see  for further biographical information.

Scope and Content of Collection

The collection contains copies of all of Esau's publications and research notebooks. There is also personal and biographical material including her awards, correspondence, and family history.


Series I contains biographical and bibliographic material, including Esau's awards.
Series II consists of a few academic files relating to teaching and administration.
Series III contains all of Esau's publications.
Series IV contains research notes from 1936 to 1987.
Series V contains professional correspondence.
Series VI contains personal photographs and material related to Esau's family, especially her brother, Paul.
Series VII contains confidential professional recommendations and reviews.

Related Materials

Cheadle Center for Biodiversity & Ecological Restoration (CCBER)
Additional archival and research material for Katherine Esau. Per their website, , they have "over 2,100 photographic prints, negatives, and lantern slides from light microscope slides; collection data; correspondence; publications, reprints" from her research on phloem structure and notebooks. The collection is 18.25 linear feet, not including reprints. Much of their material is still being used in current research but may still be accessed by patrons. For further information, contact CCBER librarian and archivist Laurie Hannah at . The collection guide is available online through the Online Archive of California (OAC), at .
UCSB Oral History Program
Katherine Esau Oral History. Katherine Esau: A Life of Achievements (1991). Includes interviews with Katherine Esau, Vernon Cheadle, Ray Evert, and Jennifer A. Thorsch. (OH 3).
University Archives: Public Information Office
Biographical files: Esau file contains mostly clippings, news releases. Photo files: contains two photos.
University Archives: Faculty Papers
Cheadle Papers: National Science Foundation grant applications and reports for projects conducted with Esau, 1983-1991.
At Other Institutions:
  • Botanical Society of America: image collection.
  • UC Berkeley. Bancroft Library. Catalogue II of the Regional Oral History Office, 1980-1997. June McCaskill Oral History. Includes information about Katherine Esau.
  • UC Berkeley. University Archives. Records of the College of Agriculture, University of California, 1881-1945. One folder in Writings and Speeches, Box 29.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Esau, Katherine, 1898-1997
Plant anatomy.
Virus diseases of plants.
University of California, Santa Barbara


Series I:  Biographical


Subseries A:  General

Box 1: 1

Curriculum Vitae and List of Publications, 1985, 1997

Box 1: 2

Esau's doctoral thesis (original manuscript), c. 1927

Box 1: 3

Handwritten autobiography of Esau covering period prior to UC Davis, c. 1985

Box 1: 4

Information and correspondence on Esau's Oral History, 1977-1978


Subseries B:  Awards

Box 2

National Academy of Sciences, bronze medal, n.d.

Box 2

Faculty Research Lecturer, bronze medal on a blue and gold ribbon, UC Davis, 1964

Box 2

International Botanical Congress, bronze medal, 1969

Box 2

National Medal of Science, gold medal in a mahogany box, 1989

Box Oversize

American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1939

Box Oversize

American Philosophical Society, membership statement, n.d.

Box Oversize

Botanical Society, Certificate of Merit, 1956

Box Oversize

National Academy of Sciences, 1957

Box Oversize

National Medal of Science, 1989

Box Oversize

Ph.D. Diploma, U.C. Berkeley, 1931

Box Oversize

Regia Academia Scientiarium (3 copies), n.d.

Box Oversize

Sigma XI, 1932

Box 3: 1

Awards, recognitions, dedications, 1966, 1971, 1989, 1991

Box 3: 2

Ladies Home Journal article: 75 Most Important Women in America, Jan. 1971

Box 3: 3

Mills College honorary doctoral diploma, June 10, 1962


Series II:  Academic

Box 3: 4

Biology 118: Final Exam, 1938

Box 3: 5

Biology 12hf: Laboratory exercises, ca. 1935

Box 3: 6

Botanical Society Fourth Summer Institute for College Teachers of Botany (Washington State University), 1961

Box 3: 7

Summaries of dissertations reviewed by Esau, 1952-1962


Series III:  Publications and Lectures

Box 3: 8

Book reviews, 1969-1985

Box 3: 9-12

Offprints, 1930-1953

Box 4: 1-4

Offprints, 1954-1986

Box 4: 5

Photomicrographs, n.d.

Box 4: 6

Reviews by Esau for the Journal of Ultrastructure Research, 1982-1983

Box 4: 7

Slides for a talk presented by Esau at UC Davis in honor of the Davis centennial birthday, 1984

Box 4: 8

"The Stelar Anatomy of the Lepidodendrales," lecture, c. 1940


Series IV:  Research

Box 5: 1

"Advanced Morphology" notes (Professor Bailey, Harvard), 1937-1938

Box 5: 2

Botany notebook, c. 1953

Box 5: 3

Metcalfe, C. R.: correspondence, 1967-1983

Box 5: 4-5

Metcalfe, C. R.: research, 1972-1981


National Science Foundation grant research project: "Normal and Pathological Anatomy of Vascular Tissues in Plants" (4 notebooks)

Box 6: 1

Notebook 1, June 3, 1960-Nov. 18, 1968

Box 6: 2

Notebook 2, Sep. 20, 1968-Oct. 25, 1973

Box 6: 3

Notebook 3, Jan. 2, 1975-Jan. 31, 1980

Box 6: 4

Notebook 4, Nov. 4, 1978-Feb. 28, 1987

Box 6: 5

"Plant Histology" notes (Professor Bailey, Harvard), 1936

Box 7: 1

Virus book, manuscript, c. 1985


Series V:  Professional Correspondence


Subseries A:  Subject Files

Box 7: 2

Borntraeger, 1964-1981

Box 7: 3

Brochure, 1984-1985

Box 7: 4

Encyclopedia Americana, 1983

Box 7: 5

Encyclopedia Britannica, 1965

Box 7: 6

Harvard, 1960-1963

Box 7: 7

Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1962-1982

Box 7: 8

Inquiries and replies, 1975-1985

Box 7: 9

Invitations, 1967-1986

Box 8: 1

Loans and research, 1982-1988

Box 8: 2

Magyarosy, A. C., 1978-1985

Box 8: 3

National Academy of Sciences, 1978-1985

Box 8: 4

No response or refusals, 1975-1985

Box 8: 5

Phytomorphology, 1965-1984

Box 8: 6

Publications, 1978-1981

Box 8: 7

Requests for the use of Esau's research for articles and lectures, 1965-1982

Box 8: 8

Requests for the use of Esau's research in texts, 1960-1982

Box 8: 9

Shah, J. J., 1981-1982

Box 8: 10

Shepardson, S., 1978-1980

Box 9: 1

Verlag, Fischer, 1963-1968

Box 9: 2

Virus book, 1985-1987

Box 9: 3

Wisconsin, 1973-1981

Box 9: 4

Miscellany, 1973-1988


Subseries B:  Chronological Files

Box 9: 5

Correspondence, 1972

Box 9: 6

Correspondence, 1978-1987

Box 9: 7

Correspondence, 1980-1986

Box 10: 1

Hermans lawsuit, 1978-1980


Series VI:  Family


Subseries A:  Subject Files



Box 11: 1

Esau and her mother, 1954

Box 11: 2

Esau's parents' letters, 1882-1955

Box 11: 3

"Henry-Karbe-Schutte Briefe", c. 1920-1940

Box 11: 4

Personal, 1930-1980

Box 11: 5

Personal, 1980-1990

Box 11: 6

Personal family, 1955

Box 11: 7

Genealogy notes on the Esau family, n.d.

Box 11: 8

Important family documents (i.e. photocopies of naturalization papers, birth certificates, etc.), 1885-1981

Box 11: 9

Information regarding the death of Esau's parents, 1940, 1955

Box 11: 10

Newspaper clippings: Spreckles, 1984

Box 11: 11

Notes on Russia: Mennonites, n.d.


Photos: Esau family, friends

Box 12: 1


Box 12: 2


Box 12: 3


Box 12: 4


Box 12: 5

Postcards, n.d.

Box 12: 6

Russian art memorabilia, n.d.

Box 12: 7

Scrapbook: John Esau (1859-1941, K. Esau's father), n.d.


Subseries B:  Paul Esau

Scope and Content Note

1894-1987, Katherine Esau's brother
Box 12: 8

Newspaper clippings, 1986-1989

Box 12: 9

Offprints, 1933, 1956-1966


Photo albums

Box 13: 1

Esau family and friends, c. 1900-1920


World War I

Box 13: 2

German army in Russia

Box 13: 3

German navy

Box 13: 4

German army, "Westfront"

Box 13: 5

Photos: family, colleagues, places, postcards (Paul Esau), c. 1920s


Series VII:  Confidential Files: Correspondence


Subseries A:  Recommendations and References

Box 14: 1

A, 1953-?

Box 14: 2-3

B, 1951-1975

Box 14: 4-9

C, 1954-1981

Box 14: 10-12

D, 1975-1986

Box 14: 13-14

E, 1959-1988

Box 14: 15

F, 1953-1979

Box 14: 16-17

G, 1955-1984

Box 15: 1-3

H, 1951-1979

Box 15: 4-6

JKL, 1969-1978

Box 15: 7-13

M, 1952-1987

Box 15: 14

N, 1968-1973

Box 15: 15

P, 1955-1976

Box 15: 16-18

R, 1951-1979

Box 15: 19-22

S, 1951-1980

Box 16: 1-4

T, 1953-1985

Box 16: 5

W, 1950-1980


Subseries B:  Reviews

Box 16: 6

Journal of Ultrastructure Research reviews, 1984-1987

Box 16: 7

National Science Foundation proposal reviews, 1973-1976

Box 16: 8

Manuscript reviews, 1971-1981