2011 44¢ Asa Gray
Issue Date: June 16, 2011
City: St. Paul, MN
Printed By: Banknote Corporation of America, Sennett Security Products
Printing Method: Offset
An 1845 letter from Harvard botanist Asa Gray (1810-88) to mentor James Torrey marked the beginning of one of Gray’s most important works. He wrote, “I am convinced that something must be done, and I will see if we can’t have a very popular, and at the same time a pretty good book.”
The book would be a collection of the theories and discoveries in botany that Gray had amassed over the years. He originally envisioned a “hasty and imperfect manual” added to one of his own textbooks. The result was about 800 pages long, and called Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States – or simply, “Gray’s Manual.” It became one of the defining books on the subject, and is still referenced today, over 160 years after it was completed.
“Heretofore Botany has been a name to be dreaded by all but the most studious…Gray has made it deeply interesting to the general reader,” wrote a later Harvard botanist, Walter Deane.
Gray regularly kept in touch with a vast network of fellow scholars from around the world. One was Charles Darwin, who shared his theories on evolution with Gray years before publishing it. The admiration Darwin held for Gray was shared by the academic community, marking Gray as one of the most respected scientists of the 19th century.