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Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 24th


Born this day in 1870, Ynes Mexia, botanist. Mexia was an Mexican-American who spent the first part of her career as a social work and then in 1921, Mexia enrolled in botany classes at University of California in Berkeley. She was 51 years old. By the age of 55, Mexia began the work of collecting plants throughout North and South Americas. Mexia's research took her deepest, isolated parts of South America. One of these trips lead to a very dangerous event. Massive flooding trapped her research party in deep jungle with no safe way to get out. After waiting three weeks and with starvation setting in- Mexia organized the building of a raft to ride down the river toward civilization. They were successful in finding their out and safely.
Mexia collected over 150,000 species. She is credited with discovering between two to five hundred new species.

Her specimen collections can be viewed at the Academy. Portions are duplicated at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia; Catholic University, Washington, D.C.; the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago; Gray Herbarium, Harvard University; the University of California, Berkeley; and important museums and botanical gardens in London, Copenhagen, Geneva, Paris, Stockholm, and Zurich. Her personal papers are at the Academy and at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley.