A New York Botanical Garden project called Transcribing Torrey is asking volunteers to decipher the notes and correspondence of one of the most prominent botanists of the 1800s, John Torrey.
He lived during the heyday of botany, when researchers around the world were racing to name Earth’s many unidentified species. Scientists say his extensive correspondence offers a unique window into a time when explorers were still documenting the New World.
“No greater champion of wildflowers ever lived than Dr. John Torrey, the 19th-century botanist and cataloguer of North American flora,” The New York Times wrote in 1970.
A Pioneer of American Natural Science
As a young man, Torrey took refuge from New York City by journeying to the surrounding countryside, which was still developing at the time. There, together with his friends and pupils, Torrey would marvel at and chronicle the many plant species. Eventually, they founded the Torrey