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Irving Widmer Bailey (1884-1967)



Irving Widmer Bailey was born on August 15, 1884, in Tilton, N.H. to Solon Irving and Ruth Pouter Bailey. His father, a professor of astronomy at Harvard University, was in 1889 selected to head a Harvard Observatory expedition to Peru. As a result of this expedition and Solon Bailey's subsequent supervision of the construction of the observatory in Peru, I. W. Bailey spent most of his childhood in South America. Upon returning to Cambridge, Mass. at the age of 14, Bailey attended Cambridge Latin High School (Wetmore 302).

Bailey received his A.B. degree, magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1907 and his M.F. in Forestry from Harvard's Graduate School of Applied Sciences in 1909. He was immediately appointed Instructor of Forestry at the school. Bailey would teach forestry under a variety of titles as the organization of the biology programs changed. He was associated for many years with the Bussey Institution, which later became part of the Graduate School of Applied Biology (Howard 2). Later in his career, Bailey kept offices at the Arnold Arboretum and then at the Gray Herbarium in the new building housing the Harvard University Herbaria. Bailey was instrumental in the construction of this new building. At the request of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Bailey produced what would beome the controversial "Bailey Plan", presented to the Harvard Corporation in 1945. This report recommended the unification of botanical activities at Harvard, and resulted in the construction of what is now the Harvard University Herbaria and the separation of horticultural and systematic studies between the Jamaica Plain and Cambridge facilities.

During WWI, Bailey was in charge of the wood section of the materials engineering department of the Bureau of Aircraft Production at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. Bailey's knowledge of the structure and physical properties of wood proved a valuable contribution to the war effort, aiding in the selection of the best woods for airplane manufacture (Wetmore 303). During WWII, Bailey was part of a Harvard Group in Biology that worked on a voluntary Camouflage Project for the Camouflage Training Section of the Engineers' School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia (Wetmore 303).

Although he started in forestry, Bailey came to be known for his work in plant anatomy. While he authored only two books, he published extensively during his career, authoring upwards of 140 papers during his 58 year career.

Bailey married Helen Diman Harwood in 1911. He died on May 16, 1967.


Foster, Adriance S. "Irving Widmer Bailey (1884-1967)." Plant Science Bulletin. 13(4): 7. 1967.
Howard, Richard A. "Irving Widmer Bailey 1884-1967." Journal of the Arnold Arboretum. 49(1): 1-15. 1968.
Wetmore, Ralph H. "Irving Widmer Bailey, 1884-1967." Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 95(3): 299-311. 1968.
Wetmore, Ralph H. "Irving Widmer Bailey (1884-1967)." Phytomorphology. 18(2): 294-298. 1968.

Scope and Content:

The Bailey papers consist of a looseleaf notebook containing U.S. Army specifications for wooden airplane parts; a collection of roughly 100 letters to Bailey, mostly 1966-1967, with a few drafts or copies of letters from him; a few letters to Bailey about his unification plan, plus a few reviews of his book of reprinted aricles and some biographical notes.


The airplane notebook was given to the Gray Herbarium by Ralph Wetmore as a part of Bailey's papers. The letters were found in archives files maintained by Mrs. Dickinson, former librarian at the Gray Herbarium; their original provenance is at present unknown.

Container Listing: BOX X

Folders: letters to or from (mostly from) the following:
Fol 1.

Abbe, Ernst
Al-Rawi, Ali
Arzee, Tova
Beaman, John H.
Bierhost, David W.
Birkerts, Gunnar
Boelcke, Osvaldo
Canada, Dept. of Agriculture
Canright, James E.
Carlquist, Sherwin
Chambers, Kenton L.
Cheadle, Vernon I.
Clausen, Robert T.
Collardet, Jean
Constance, Lincoln
Coté, Wilfred A.
Cronquist, Arthur
Delevoryas, T.
Dickison, William C.
Disrud, Dennis T.
Dunn, David B.
Dunning, Charles E.
Eamer, Arthur
Essau, Katherine
Evans, A. Murray

Fol. 2
Feder, Ned
Fraser, Donald A.
Freeman, Thomas P.
Gast, Paul R.
Gasteen, Shirley
Gregory, Mary
Halton, H. C. S.
Harrison, Keith
Held, Robert Peter
Howells, W. W.
Hubbard, Frank T.
Jalan, Shyam
Johri, B. M.
Karnick, C. R.
Kaul, Ashok
Kurtz, Edwin B.
Langenheim, Jean
Lasser, Tobías
Leney, Lawrence
Machlis, Leonard
McCully, Margaret
Martens, P.
Marvey, James C., Mrs.
Maze, Jack
Metcalfe, O. R.
Miner, Eunice Thomas
Miranda, Maxim
Mitich, Larry W.
Museum of Fine Arts

Fol. 3
Ornduff, Robert
Panshin, A. J.
Porter, C. L.
Prasad, M. K.
Reeder, John R.
Rüffle, L.
Sando, E. E.
Saxena, M. R.
Sayre, Edward V.
Schopf, James M.
Schramm, J. R.
Seymour, Frank C.
Shah, J. J.
Sharma, Brahm Dutta
Shattuck, George Cheever
Skovsted, A.
Smith, A. C.
Smith, Walton R.
Stern, William L.
Stewart, C. M.
Strivastava, Lalit M.
Subramanyam, K.

Fol. 4
Taylor, Sir George
Templeton, Bonnie C.
Thimann, Kenneth V.
Tippo, Oswald
Van der Schÿff, H. P.
Van Schaack, George B.
Vickery, H. B.
Webber, William A.
Weibel, R.
Wetmore, Ralph
Zircle, Conway

(Note: in the preceding folders, most names are represented by 1 - 3 letters, mostly 1966-1967)

Fol. 5 The following folder contains miscellaneous letters and biographical information:

1 letter from Frank Thone, 1947
copy of letter from Paul H. Buck, 1945
1 letter from Donald Scott, 1946
1 letter from Albert F. Blakeslee, 1946
3 reviews of Bailey's Contributions to Plant Anatomy, 1955-1956
1 letter from publisher re above, 1963
Cranbrook Institute of Science Newsletter with brief article on Bailey
2 résumés of Bailey, n.d. and 1965

Fol. 6 Looseleaf notebook containing U.S. Army specifications for wooden propellors, wooden wing beams, glues, etc. Apparently beolonged to Bailey when he worked for the Bureau of Aircraft Production during World War I. A note in the book indicates that it was once considered classified information.

See Also:

Semi-Historic Letter Collection
Gray Archives Photograph Collection: #1395 Map case


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Last Updated June 2002
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