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Guide to the Katherine Esau Papers
UArch FacP 23  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access Restrictions
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Related Materials
  • Indexing Terms

  • 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 http://www.botany.org/bsa/misc/esau.html  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

    At UCSB:
    Cheadle Center for Biodiversity & Ecological Restoration (CCBER)
    Additional archival and research material for Katherine Esau. Per their website, http://ccber.lifesci.ucsb.edu/library/ , 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 hannah@lifesci.ucsb.edu . The collection guide is available online through the Online Archive of California (OAC), at http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt1s20304s/ .
    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