The collection comprises the professional papers of plant taxonomist Robert F. Thorne (1920-2015), who served as herbarium
curator and botany faculty at California Botanic Garden [Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden] and Claremont Graduate University
from 1962 until 1987. The collection includes Thorne’s correspondence, manuscripts, species lists, publications, field notes,
photographs, teaching and professional society materials, and memorabilia spanning his career and retirement.
Robert Folger Thorne was born in 1920 in Spring Lake, New Jersey and raised in Florida. He obtained his B.A. in botany at
Dartmouth College in 1941 and received his M.S. in economic botany from Cornell University in 1942 before joining the U.S.
Air Force. He served in Europe during World War II and flew in 40 missions as a navigator. After World War II, he returned
to Cornell University to earn his Ph.D. in economic botany with a minor in geomorphology. He married Mae Zukel in 1947 and
they had one daughter, Linda.
After working for brief periods for the U.S. Public Health Service and Cornell, he joined the faculty at the University of
Iowa as an assistant professor of botany in 1949. He soon obtained the rank of associate professor and then full professor
by 1960. He did postdoctoral work as a Fulbright Scholar in New Caledonia and Australia in 1959 and was a visiting professor
at the University of Virginia (1956) and University of Minnesota (1962). In 1962, he moved to Claremont, California to work
at California Botanic Garden [previously Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden] as a taxonomist, herbarium curator, and professor
of botany. He was thesis advisor to over 25 graduate students. He retired in 1987 and continued his research as taxonomist,
curator, and professor emeritus until his death in 2015.
His major research interests included angiosperm phylogeny, biogeography, and the floristics of western North America, especially
California and Baja California. He developed the Thorne system of plant classification starting in 1968, which was followed
by numerous revisions over the next several decades. He made over 60000 plant collections from all over the globe and published
more than 100 scientific papers over the course of his career. In addition to research and teaching, Dr. Thorne was involved
in numerous professional societies and organizations. He held leadership positions in the American Society of Plant Taxonomists,
Botanical Society of America, Southern California Botanists, California Botanical Society, and Gamma Alpha scientific fraternity.
He served as chairman of the Flora North America Advisory Council, the predecessor to the Flora of North America Project.
He also was a conservation advocate and promoted efforts to preserve and protect endangered plant species of Iowa and Southern
29.3 linear feet (35 boxes, 2 plant presses)
Copyright of most materials in this collection is held by the creator. Consult the Librarian for details.
The collection is open to research, except for Box 9, Folder 26 and Box 32, Folder 20-22, which are restricted. Audiovisual
and born digital materials require additional processing before they can be made available. Contact the repository for access.