Everglades Biographies

John Kunkel Small

John K. Small was a botanist and taxonomist most renowned for his research on the flora of the southeastern United States, particularly Florida. Born in January 31, 1869 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Small studied botany at Franklin & Marshall College and Columbia University. After receiving his doctorate from Columbia, Small served as the curator of the institution's herbarium. In 1898 he moved to the newly founded New York Botanical Garden, where he remained until his death in 1938. He personally collected over 60,000 specimens for the Garden's collections.

Small was one of the first botanists to explore Florida and he documented many areas that had previously been unknown. His first trip to Florida occurred in 1901. Over the next 37 years, he returned many times to collect specimens, to study the natural history of the region, and to photograph natural landscapes, tropical plants, Seminoles and other local folk. His excursions were conducted by car and boat, and often included his wife Elizabeth and their four children.

Small's botanical research was recorded in 450 published works, mostly articles, and numerous unpublished typescripts. Among his most well-known publications is the book From Eden to Sahara--Florida's Tragedy, which received acclaim in 1929 for documenting the severe deterioration of south Florida's
botanical resources that he had observed up to that time.

Much of Small's Florida work is reflected in the John Kunkel Small Collection maintained by the Florida State Archives, comprising 25 cubic feet of correspondence and thousands of photographs. More than 3600 of these images are freely accessible through the web site of the Florida State Archives.

While the collections represented in Reclaiming the Everglades contain only a small sample of materials relating to the life and work of Dr. Small, no history of the South Florida environment would be complete without recognizing his contributions.

Biography prepared by Gail Clement, Florida International University

Excerpt of letter from John Kunkel Small to Minnie Moore-Willson, January 21, 1929. From Moore-Willson Papers, University of Miami Libraries.

"There is much activity now to get parts, at least, of the Everglades rescued from the vandals."



Photo courtesy of Florida State Archives, John Kunkel Small Collection

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