Perry's Perennial Pages-- Famous Perennial Persons

John Torrey
by Jennifer M..

 John Torrey was born on August 15,1796 in New York. During his childhood, Torrey spent his leisure time collecting plants and flowers around his home in New York.   When he was fifteen years old, his father was selected Fiscal Agent of the State Prison of New York.  This is where he met a man named Amos Eaten, an established educator in the natural sciences, who encouraged Torrey’s interest in chemistry and mineralogy.

 In 1817, Torrey was appointed to collaborate the Catalogue of the Plants Growing Within Thirty Miles of New York.  A year later he received his medical degree and opened a practice in New York, while still spending his spare time in the field of botany.  In 1824, Torrey was Assistant-Surgeon at West Point and also took the position as a Professor in Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Geology.  He quickly moved up to the top to the Chairperson of the Chemistry and Botany College in New York.

In time, Torrey became frustrated with the Linnean system and wrote a compendium using John Lindley's modern natural system in where plants were categorized by families.  Torrey later applied this system to a large work: A Compendium of the Flora of the Northern and Middle States.  “In 1831, Torrey supervised the publication of an American reprint of the first edition of Lindley's Introduction to the Natural System of Botany, and appended a catalogue of the North American genera arranged according to it.  Torrey was appointed New York State Botanist in 1836 and consequently compiled the flora of the state, which was published in 1843 and largest single work of its time.

Torrey broadened his research to the Great Plains and the western Rocky Mountains.  He also collected and identified plants along the Pacific Railroad routes, Mexican border, and the plants collected on the expeditions of Stephen Long, Joseph Nicollet, John Fremont, William Emory, L. Sitgreaves, Howard Stansbury, and Randolph Marcy and Charles Wilkes.
John Torrey was a member of many scientific societies in America, as well as Europe.  He was a twice-elected President of the New York Lyceum of Natural History, a corporate member of the National Academy of Washington.  He was a chief pioneer in America botany, a gifted teacher, and also had an unselfish personality. He was also known to become friendly with all who met him.

return to Perry's Perennial Pages | Home Gardener | Famous Perennial Persons