Asa Gray (1810-1888)

America's leading botanist in the mid-19th century. Darwin's strongest early supporter in the U.S., in 1857 he became only the third scientist to be told of his theory (after Hooker and Lyell). He debated L. Agassiz between 1859 and 1861 on variation and geographic distribution (see also W. Rogers). His discovery of close affinities between East Asian and North American floras was a key piece of evidence in favor of evolution. Not fully comfortable with selection, he argued that evolution was compatible with religious belief and slid towards theistic evolutionism. Author of numerous botanical textbooks. A poor fund raiser, he still succeeded in establishing what became the Gray Herbarium. President of AAAS in the 1860's. With Engelmann dead, Gray selected William Trelease as first director of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Collaborated with his mentor J. Torrey on the Flora of North America.

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