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Dr. Asa Gray, the celebrated botanist, died Monday afternoon, after a lingering illness, at his residence in Cambridge.
Asa Gray was born in Paris, Oneida County, New York, November 18, 1810, and was consequently 77 years of age. He received his early education in the Clinton Grammar School and at the Fairfield Academy, after which he began the study of medicine with Dr. John F. Trowbridge in Bridgewater, N. Y., and was graduated at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the western district of New York in 1831. He soon after left his practice and began the study of botany with Dr. John Torrey. In 1834 he was appointed botanist to the United States exploring expedition sent out under the command of Captain Charles Wilkes, but in consequence of the delay of that enterprise resigned the post in 1837. He was elected professor of botany in the new University of Michigan, but he declined the chair and accepted in 1842 the Fisher professorship of natural history at Harvard, where he remained until 1873, when he retired from the active duties of his office, though he still retained the charge of the herbarium. Dr. Gray's scientific work began at a time when the old artificial systems of botany were giving way to the natural system, and with Dr. Torrey, he was among the first to attempt the classification of species on the natural basis of affinity. Four years later, under the joint authorship of Asa Gray and John Torrey, the first part of the "Flora of North America" appeared. Professor Gray presented his herbarium, numbering more than 200,000 specimens, and his library of more than 2,500 botanical works, to Harvard in 1864. He received the degree of A. M. from Harvard in 1844 and of L. L. D. from Hamilton in 1860, and has delivered three courses of lectures in the Lowell Institute. Dr. Gray was regent of the Smithsonian Institute, succeeding Louis Aggasiz in that office. For many years he was one of the editors of the American Journal of Science, and his "Botanical Contributions" have long been published in the proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences and Arts.
The anniversary of Dr. Gray's 75th birthday was celebrated Nov. 18, 1885, and the expressions of all of the botanists of America of love and esteem for their master indicated the high place which the followers of his chosen science accorded him. When Professor Gray first went to Cambridge the establishment was hardly more than a botanic garden in name, and did not include either herbarium library or other proper material for instruction or research. Professor Gray is a foreign member of the Royal Society, of London; he is a foreign member also of the Institute of France, being one of the "immortal eight;" and long ago he was welcomed into all the less exclusive bodies of European savants. He has served the American Academy of Arts and Science as its president, and has presided over the American Association for the advancement of science. In 1884 his portrait, made in bronze, was presented to Harvard College. No tablet of bronze will be necessary to perpetuate the scientific fame of Asa Gray. It is well, however, that generations of scholars yet unborn may thus be able to gaze upon the gentle features of a man whom no one has yet surpassed in the lustre which he has shed upon their Alma Mater.
Since 1880, Professor Gray's life has been practically uneventful. He last year went abroad, visiting old friends in France, Germany and England, and devoted but little of his time to scientific research. He returned to Cambridge about two months ago and at once took up his scientific work where he left off The first notice of his sickness was on Monday, Nov. 28, when, upon attempting to raise his arm, he found it impossible, and it was soon discovered that paralysis had developed to an alarming extent, and that it was a question of but a short time, when this master mind and robust body must leave his life's work and pass beyond.
For 40 years he has planted the seeds and borne almost single-banded the burden of the botanical harvest. It would be difficult to point to any other scientific man, with the single exception of Charles Darwin, who has in his own department of learning so entirely impressed himself upon the intellectual growth of a nation. No greater void in the scientific world has been made since the death of Louis Agassiz, the naturalist, in 1874.
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