The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Florida: the Wallace connection

 David Fairchild in 1889

David Fairchild (1869-1954), the founder of the famous Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG) in Florida attended a lecture by Wallace in Kansas when Fairchild was at college there (the image to the right shows him in 1889). Afterwards Wallace was a guest in Fairchild's father's home (his father was the president of Kansas State Agricultural College in Manhattan, Kansas). Many years later Fairchild said “I like to imagine that it was this meeting with the great naturalist which started my longing to see, when I grew up, those islands of the Great East - the Malay Archipelago.” Fairchild went on to become "One of the most influential horticulturalists and plant collectors in the country, [he] was the first Chief of the Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction Section and worked for the USDA for 37 years."

"...Fairchild’s interest in visiting those islands studied by Wallace in what was then the Dutch East Indies remained with Fairchild his entire life. Finally, on the cusp of his seventieth decade, he set out on a voyage to the Dutch East Indies on Fairchild Tropical Garden’s first collecting expedition in...a replica Chinese junk named Cheng Ho. The six-month journey begun on January 8, 1940, was cut short by World War II. His exploits to the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines are recounted in Fairchild’s book, Garden Islands of the Great East."

"Building upon Fairchild’s fieldwork begun in Indonesia, FTBG is today funding plant exploration on the island of Halmahera, the largest island in the Maluku Islands. Dr. Carl Lewis, Director of the FTBG, says of the work on Halmahera, 'We have come full circle by returning to one of the places that Dr. Fairchild could not fully explore and we are continuing the work he started.' Wrote Fairchild, 'I could not help lingering on the cliff, where the branches of the trees and some large vines framed a view of the coast of Halmahera across the water. It seemed a great pity that we were not to have time to get into its interior, but it was something just to sit there and look at it stretched out before me, its range of mountains rising at places to 4,000 feet above the sea.'"

According to Charles Smith & Megan Derr's 2013 book Alfred Russel Wallace's 1886–1887 Travel Diary: the North American Lecture Tour, Wallace gave a lecture entitled "Darwinism" in Manhattan, Kansas on Monday 9th May 1887 (which was attended by nearly 400 people) and in the evening he had dinner with David Fairchild's father George (1838-1901). This must have been the occasion that David (then aged 18) met and was inspired by Wallace.

The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is featured in the following documentary entitled The Fruit Hunters on YouTube: For more information about David Fairchild see WIKIPEDIA

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith