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Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps (1793-1884) and the Spread of Botany in Nineteenth Century America

Emanuel D. Rudolph
American Journal of Botany
Vol. 71, No. 8 (Sep., 1984), pp. 1161-1167
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2443392
Page Count: 7
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Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps (1793-1884) and the Spread of Botany in Nineteenth Century America
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Abstract

Mrs. Phelps was influenced by her older sister Emma Willard, a well known educational reformer, and by Amos Eaton, who helped form her botanical and scientific understanding. Feeling the lack of a suitable botanical textbook particularly for female students who were becoming more prevalant, she wrote, Familiar Lectures on Botany, published in 1829, using her first husband's surname (Lincoln). It quickly became popular and continued to be revised and reprinted through 1869. In 1833, a second botany text for lower level students, Botany for Beginners, appeared. It too, went through many reprintings up to 1891. Mrs. Phelps' other books and writings on science and education were popular also. The botanical texts were educationally innovative in starting with flower structure using common living examples and integrating morphological and physiological aspects of plants. The Linnaean System was used to classify the "most common native and foreign" plants that were described mainly from Eaton's manuals. Clear figures, often copied from well-known authorities helped to instruct teachers and students. Because of its wide usage, even in later years in competition with the widely used textbooks of Asa Gray and Alphonso Wood, Mrs. Phelps' books were an important factor in educating many students, especially females, in botany and inducing some of them to have a life-long interest in the science and in teaching it to others. She was, through her writings, a person who helped provide a favorable climate for the developing profession of botany in America.

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