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Harley Harris Bartlett
LSA Minutes

Harley Harris Bartlett
1886 - 1960

Harley Harris Bartlett, son of Jonathan Hodgkin and Harriet Amanda (Potter) Bartlett, was born March 9, 1886, at Anaconda, Montana. The family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, at the invitation of Harley's uncle, Merritt Potter, to afford the children better schooling.

As a youth, Harley Bartlett was of a quiet, retiring nature. He was deeply studious and particularly engrossed in botany, geology and chemistry. His schooling was interrupted for one year when he aided his father in a goldmining venture in Georgia, which turned out badly. The vein was good but there were insurmountable difficulties with water.

After graduation from Shortridge High School, he stayed on for two years as an assistant, first in botany and then in chemistry. He had complete responsibility for the teaching of the chemistry classes as the instructor was on sick leave.

In 1904, he matriculated at Harvard University. He was undergraduate assistant to B. L. Robinson and M. L. Fernald in the Gray Herbarium for three years. Robinson chose him to help in the revision of the Seventh Edition (1908) of Cray's Manual of Botany. He was entrusted with preparation of the manuscript for the large and difficult genus of rushes, Juncus. Independently, as an undergraduate, Harley Bartlett prepared and had published ten original research articles, including one in German, "Uber das Vorkornmen von Juncus Dudleyi Wiegand in Deutschland". (Aug.l Bot. Zeitschr. 13: 147. 1907). This early publication in Cerman presaged
his extraordinary linguistic accomplishments. How many Latin descriptions of new species of plants were to come from his pen to bolster the taxonomic contributions of fellow botanists, less skilled in the classical languages! "Bartlett is doing my Latin description," became a familiar statement, uttered in appreciation and confidence. His special attainments in Languages included fluency in Malayan and a knowledge of the finer points of the language of the Batak people of eastern Sumatra, of which he had a considerable library of writings on bamboo.

He received the A.B. degree cum laude in Chemistry in 1908. He took only one or two formal courses in Botany. Harvard's Richards, Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, offered Bartlett an opportunity to stay at Cambridge to work with him, but instead he yielded to practical considerations, quite out of character, to accept appointment as chemical biologist in the Bureau of Soils and Chemistry under Rodney True in the U. S. Department of Agriculture at Washington. His days under Rodney True, whom he greatly admired, were very happy ones; together they published on such researches as, "The exchange of ions between roots of Lupinus albus and culture solutions containing three nutrient salts" (Amer. Journ. Bot.3: 47-57. 1916).

Far-away fields were always very green to Harley Bartlett. When the great Dutch botanist Hugo de Vries came to the U.S. to study Oenothera (evening primrose) populations, in support of his mutation theory of evolution, Bartlett took time off flom his Washington post and went with de Vries to Georgia and elsewhere to explore the origins of 0. larnarckiana. ',1,"ith de Vries, he published, "The evening primroses of Dixie Landing, Alabama" (Science 35: 599-601. 1912). He cultivated
Oenothera in vacant lots near his mother's home in Washington and turned out twelve lengthy and important articles on this genus, including a series
of five papers in the journal Rhodora, on "Systematic studies on Oenothera". These significant studies on variation and mutation in evening primroses were accomplished quite outside of his duties with the Department of Agriculture, where he was publishing imposing studies on plant physiology and biochemistry. He always enjoyed being a free lancer and avowed, "Nothing is worth doing unless there is flavor in it"!

As a result of his investigations on Oenothera, he was invited by Frederick C. Newcombe to join the staff of the Department of Botany of the University of Michigan in 1915 as an Assistant Professor. His abilities were soon recognized at the University where he rose to a professorship within six years. In 1922 he succeeded Newcombe as Chairman. He presided over the Department as an intellectual leader and powerful though benevolent administrator for 25 years. Professor Bartlett developed the Botanical Gardens as its Director from 1919-1955. He served on numerous college and university committees, enlivening many a session by his jovial presence and clear, colorful utterances.

In 1918 he made his first of many trips to foreign lands, on this initial one as a botanist with the U.S. Rubber Company in Sumatra.

He conducted botanical and agricultural field work and research in Sumatra, the Philippines, Formosa, Mexico, Guatemala, British Honduras, Panama, Haiti, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile under the auspices of the University of Michigan, the United States Rubber Company, the Smithsonian Institute, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the University of the Philippines, and the Office of Rubber Investigations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

His warm, outgoing nature and great generosity to people at all levels, I wherever he botanized, resulted in numerous enduring friendships. He
left a wake of devoted plant collectors who obtained at considerable effort

Professor Bartlett's known list of publications numbers over 150 titles. They reflect a major interest at first in taxonomy, then in turn plant the nistry, genetics, and anthropology. Original observations are recorded also in paleobotany, plant anatomy and morphology, plant geography, radiation, ethnology, history, linguistics, education and philately.

High on the list of his scientific accomplishments must 1st be placed his balanced lethal hypothesis, to explain many of the complexities of Oenothera genetics, and his studies on fossil spores (1929) which first alerted paleobotanists and stratigraphers to the importance of these microscopic fossils in stratigraphic correlations, especially of coal and oil formations. His paper seems to have been one of the major stimuli toward the development of the modern science of spore research, "palynology".

The following sample of titles of his non-botanical papers best shows something of the range of his scholarly interests.

Radiocarbon Datability of Peat, Marl, Caliche, and Archeological Materials. Science, 114 (19 51) 55-56.

The Status of the University of the Philippines and of Higher Education in the Philippines. Manila, 1947. pp. 21.

A Tiger Charm with Inscribed Invocation, from the Pardembanan Betak of Silo Maradja, Asahan, Sumatra. Ethnos, 16 (1951) : 71-82, 3 figs.

Goethe as a Biologist. Mich. Alum. Quart. Rev., 55 (1949) : 300-12.

An English Bill in Chancery, 1644, Concerning Roger Williams and His Brothers. Journ. New Eng. Hist. Geneol. Soc., 97 (1943) : 176-81.

The Reports of the Wilkes Expedition, and the Work of the Specialists in Science. Proc. Amer. Philos. Soc., 82 (1940) : 601-705.

American Captivities in Barbary. Mich. Alum. 61, no. 18 (Quart. Rev.) 1955: 238-254.

The Communist Silver-Yuan Stamps of China. China Clipper, 15 (19 51) : 9 2 - 9 7.

Fire, Primitive Agriculture and Grazing in the Tropics. pp. 692-720 in Man's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth. U. of Chicago Press, 1955.

A Batak and Malay Chant on Rice Cultivation, with Introductory Notes on Bilingualism and Acculturation in Sumatra. Proc. Amer. Philos. Soc. 96 (1952) : 629-52.

Professor Bartlett's preoccupation with whatever scholarly work took his fancy is nicely typified by his last scientific effort. He gave an invitational paper in a symposium at Princeton sponsored by the Wenner¬Cren Foundation in 1955, #34 "Fire, Primitive Agriculture and Crazing in the Tropics." Feeling dissatisfied with the incompleteness of the bibliographical references imposed by the nature of the publication, he came out with an annotated sup-ple.-nent of 568 pages. Then followed volume 2 of 873 pages which was prepared for distribution at the Ninth Pacific Science Congress in Bangkok, 1957. At the time of his last illness he was engrossed in preparation of volume 3 and carrying on correspondence for projected volumes 4 and 5.

Professor Bartlett was unmarried. He is survived by his sister, Hazel A. Bartlett of Ann Arbor, and a brother, Dr. Clifford L. Bartlett of Pasadena, Calif.; two nieces, Mrs. Charles (Rachel) Ahrenius and Mrs. Frederick (Mary Alice) Hunt, both of Seattle, Wash.; and several cousins, including Mrs. Grace Potter Powell of Ann Arbor. Professor Bartlett's well known generosity and benevolence, his kindness to guests from foreign countries and his love of little children endeared him to numerous persons to whom he will always be, "Uncle Harley". To the relatives and friends the faculty extends its sincere sympathy.

K. L. Jones
Rogers McVaugh
Wm. Randolph Taylor