The Yale University Herbarium was founded in 1864 and has as its nucleus the personal herbarium and library of Daniel Cady Eaton. Originally under Yale University’s Department of Biology, the Herbarium’s administration was entrusted to the Peabody’s Division of Botany in 1968. In addition, it was the herbarium of record for the flora of Southern New England from 1864 until 1955, when that collection function passed to the University of Connecticut at Storrs.
For 31 years Eaton, whose special area of interest was ferns, curated the Herbarium. His 2-volume Ferns of North America, illustrated in color by Charles Faxon and J.H. Emerton, are housed in the Division of Botany. During his career Evans’s collection and research interests also turned to lichens. His lichen material was donated to the Smithsonian Insitution, but his bryophyte collection of approximately 35,000 specimens remains in the Yale Herbarium.
Eaton’s botanical interests were far ranging. He collected in Utah in the 1860s, and also contributed extensive floristic accounts to the United States Mexican Boundary Survey, Clarence King’s Geological Exploration of the 40th Parallel, George Wheeler’s Geographical Surveys West of the One Hundreth Meridian, and the Geological Survey of California. Many of these specimens remain in the Yale Herbarium.
Division holdings also include historic collections made in Scotland in 1808 by Sir William Hooker, and by his son Joseph Douglas Hooker during his 1848 travels to Sikkim. In addition, the Herbarium houses important collections made by James Dwight Dana during the Wilkes Expedition of 1838–1842, Frank Tweedy, Addison E. Verrill and by Eaton’s colleague William Henry Brewer. Brewer, Professor of Agriculture (1864–1903) at the Yale Sheffield Scientific School and Yale Professor of Foresty (1900–1903), collected throughout California in the years following the Gold Rush, and later on the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899.
One of Eaton’s last students, Alexander Williams Evans, devoted over 40 years to the taxonomy and geology of bryophytes as curator of the Herbarium collections and as Eaton Professor of Botany. Evans and his student Elwood Nichols, who later became Professor of Ecology, produced Bryophytes of Connecticut in 1908. John Reeder served as Curator of the Herbarium from 1947 to 1968. It was during Reeder’s tenure that the Herbarium’s emphasis shifted from “lower” to “higher” plants. Reeder’s work centered on the world’s true grasses. Along with his wife Charlotte, he expanded the Herbarium’s collection of Gramineae.
Donald Levin took over as Curator in 1969 and continued work on higher plants with studies of pollination ecology in Phlox, and of hybridization and genetic variability in plant populations. When Levin left Yale in 1973, James Rodman, a systematic botanist, became Curator-in-charge until his departure in 1983. For the next 17 years, the Division of Botany and the Yale Herbarium were managed by Curators of Paleobotany Leo Hickey and Bruce Tiffney. Tiffney left in 1986, leaving Hickey as Curator-in-charge. In 2000 Michael J. Donoghue joined the Yale faculty as G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and was appointed Curator of Botany. From 2002 to 2007, Nico Cellinese served as the first Collections Manager of the Peabody’s Division of Botany and the Yale Herbarium. In 2008, Patrick Sweeney was hired as the Collections Manager.