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Guide to the Kenneth V. Thimann papers
MS 71  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Kenneth V. Thimann Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1920-1980
    Collection number: MS 71
    Creator: Thimann, Kenneth Vivian
    Extent: 64 cartons
    Repository: University of California, Santa Cruz. University Library.Special Collections and Archives
    Santa Cruz, California 95064
    Abstract: This collection contains correspondence, field notebooks, and research files.
    Physical location: Stored offsite at NRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the papers.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is unprocessed and unavailable for research.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to publish or to reproduce, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    Kenneth V. Thimann Papers, MS 71, Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of the Thimann family in 1997.


    Biographical Narrative

    Kenneth V. Thimann was a pioneering researcher in the field of plant physiology. He was best known for describing the functions of hormones in the control and development of plants. In particular, he identified the growth hormone known as auxin and characterized its chemical structure, a discovery of critical importance to the agriculture and horticulture industries. He also was highly regarded for his research on the biosynthesis of pigments responsible for the colors of flowers and fruits, and the action of various zones of the light spectrum on photosynthesis. Later in life, he began to focus on the factors controlling the mechanisms of plant senescence, especially the aging of leaves.
    Thimann was born in Ashford, England, on August 5, 1904. He earned his B.Sc. and Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry from Imperial College, University of London, and a diploma from the University of Graz, Austria. He taught at the University of London for several years before coming to the California Institute of Technology in 1930 as an instructor in bacteriology and biochemistry.
    Thimann joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1935 and remained there for 30 years. He was director of Harvard's Biological Laboratories from 1946 through 1950 and was Higgins Professor of Biology from 1962 to 1965. He was an associate at Eliot House, and in 1962 he became the first master of East House at Radcliffe College when Radcliffe organized its women's residences along the lines of the Harvard houses.
    During World War II Thimann was a technical consultant to the U.S. Navy. He worked with the Navy's operations research group in Washington, D.C., London, and Pearl Harbor.
    In 1965 Thimann moved west at the urging of UCSC's founding chancellor, Dean McHenry, to become professor of biology and the first provost of Crown College, the third of UCSC's eight academic colleges. Thimann retired as provost in 1972 but remained active in research and university affairs for many years. He moved to Haverford in 1989, where he set up an active research collaboration at the University of Pennsylvania with the eldest of his three daughters.
    Among Thimann's most noteworthy contributions to the campus was his nurturing of the UCSC Arboretum into an internationally known collection of plants from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. He chaired the chancellor's committee on Arboretum and plantations for 15 years and helped to launch the Arboretum Associates, a community support group, in 1977. He also was an accomplished amateur pianist and founded the Crown Chamber Players with his wife, Ann Mary Bateman Thimann, a skilled weaver who died in 1987.

    Scope and Content of collection

    This unprocessed collection contains correspondence, field notebooks, and research files.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Thimann, Kenneth Vivian, 1904-
    Growth (Plants)