Oral history interviews with Francis Raymond Fosberg
Fosberg, F. Raymond (Francis Raymond), 1908-1993, interviewee Search this
22 audiotapes (reference copies).
The Smithsonian Institution Archives began its Oral History Program in 1973. The purpose of the program is to supplement the written documentation of the Archives'
record and manuscript collections with an Oral History Collection, focusing on the history of the Institution, research by its scholars, and contributions of its staff. Program
staff conduct interviews with current and retired Smithsonian staff and others who have made significant contributions to the Institution. There are also interviews conducted
by researchers or students on topics related to the history of the Smithsonian or the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Fosberg was interviewed for the Oral History Collection because of his distinguished scientific career, contributions to the field of Pacific science, and career as a botanist
at the National Museum of Natural History. Additional information about Fosberg can be found in the F. Raymond Fosberg Papers, which are also housed in Smithsonian Insitution
The F. Raymond Fosberg Interviews were conducted by Smithsonian Institution Archives Historian, Pamela M. Henson, during six sessions in 1993. Fosberg discusses his
early life and influences; education and reminiscences of William Atwood Hilton and Philip Alexander Munz at Pomona, Harold St. John at Hawaii, and Jack Fogg at Pennsylvania;
work on the Mangareva Expedition; his career at the USGS and USDA and work on the Colombian Cinchona Mission and the Marshall Islands and Micronesia surveys; work on
Cinchona while on a Guggenheim Fellowship; career at the NMNH and reminiscences of Sachet; work in the international systematics community specifically on plant taxonomy
and nomenclature, and work on the Pacific Science Congress; and his multidisciplinary, ecological view of science. The collection consists of 11 hours of audiotape recordings
which have been remastered digitally into 22 .wav files and 22 .mp3 files for reference, and c. 250 pages of transcript.
Francis Raymond Fosberg (1908-1993) was born in Spokane, Washington, and grew up in Turlock, California, with an early interest in natural history. He received his
B.A. in botany from Pomona College in 1930. After graduation, he took a position at the Los Angeles County Museum researching plants of the desert Southwest and islands off
the coast of California. This research led to his interests in island ecosystems, and in 1932 he moved to Honolulu to accept a position as a research assistant at the University
of Hawaii. While in Hawaii, he was invited to participate in the Mangareva Expedition. He received his M.S. in botany from the University of Hawaii in 1937 and his Ph.D. from
the University of Pennsylvania in 1939. Fosberg accepted a position at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and was sent to Colombia to identify stands of Cinchona
for quinine production for the war effort. After World War II, he participated in a survey of economic resources in the Micronesian Islands. Upon his return to the United
States, he and his new assistant, Marie-Hélène Sachet, began vegetation work for the newly formed Pacific Science Board under the National Research Council. Fosberg was also
involved in the development of a joint program of the South Pacific Commission and the Pacific Science Board called the Coral Atoll Program, publishing papers twice a year.
Fosberg began his fifteen-year career at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 1951, mapping the military geology of islands in the Pacific. During his years there
he also participated in many conferences, congresses, and scientific organizations such as the Pacific Science Association; United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural
Organization; the Pacific Science Board; and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1966, Fosberg took a position at the Smithsonian's National Museum
of Natural History (NMNH) in the tropical biology branch of the Ecology Program. Sachet was also appointed to the Program, allowing a continuation of their joint research.
In 1968, with the demise of the Program, he and Sachet transferred to the Department of Botany, where Fosberg became Curator. He became Senior Botanist in 1976 and continued
his career as Botanist Emeritus from 1978 to 1993.