Edward Palmer (botanist)

Edward Palmer (botanist) bigraphy, stories - English botanist

Edward Palmer (botanist) : biography

1829 – 1911

Edward Palmer (1829 – 1911) was a self-taught British botanist and early American archaeologist.

Born in England, he spent most of his life in the United States, where he was employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a botanist. He led an expedition in 1891 exploring the flora and fauna of California and particularly Death Valley. He also collected specimens in Mexico and South America and had about 200 species and two genera (Palmerella and Malperia) of plants named after him. The standard botanical author abbreviation Palmer is applied to species he described.

Though primarily a botanist, Edward Palmer also contributed to early American archaeology and ethnology. Between 1882 and 1884, Palmer worked as a field assistant for the Bureau of American Ethnology Mound Exploration Division. The purpose of this expedition was to conduct an extensive survey of Indian mounds in the eastern United States. While most of Palmer’s archaeological research was performed in Arkansas, he also excavated mounds in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia.

While in Georgia, Palmer investigated the Kolomoki Mound site in Early County. Though he excavated many of the mounds at Kolomoki, he is said to have discovered nothing worth cataloguing. He did, however, examine many “house sites” and found a number of ash deposits and fragments of pottery.

In 1894, the Mound Exploration Division final report, written by its director Cyrus Thomas, was published and dispelled the racist theories that the mounds of the southeastern United States had been built by a “lost race of Mound-Builders.” The report cited ample evidence that the mounds were built by the ancestors of historical Native tribes. After the Mound Exploration project was completed, Palmer returned to botany and natural history and worked as a Smithsonian field representative, a scientist at the Smithsonian’s Bureau of American Ethnology and as a collector and “expert” at the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C until his death on April 10, 1911.