Plowman, Timothy Charles (Tim) (1944-1989)
Plowman was an avid collector of plants even as a boy growing up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Cornell, he went to Harvard to work under Schultes, who sent him immediately on an expedition to the Amazon, even before he had a chance to enrol in the graduate school. His doctoral thesis, which he carefully revised and updated towards the end of his life, was a revision of the genus Brunfelsia and was based on 15 months of continuous field work in Central and South America and the Caribbean. As was his practice, it dealt with both the systematics and ethnobotany of the plants under investigation. Afterwards he made the taxonomy of Erythroxylum and the ethnobotany of coca, the sacred leaf of the Andes, his primary interest for over 15 years. Due to his intensive research, the Field Museum (F) is the major repository for literature and material of Erythroxylum, with over 5,000 specimens worldwide.
Plowman conducted field work in some of the most remote and inhospitable regions of the Andes and Amazon, making over 15,000 collections. These are not restricted to his own speciality. In the field he was conscientious about collecting material that might be useful to other botanists whose work he knew. As a result he brought back many different plant groups for study and cultivation, as well as 700 specimens of Erythroxylum.
From 1972 until 1978, Plowman was acting curator of the Economic Herbarium of Oakes Ames at Harvard. He joined the Field Museum as assistant curator in 1976 and became associate curator in 1983, chair of the department of botany in 1986, and curator in 1988. From 1984 to 1988, he also served as scientific editor of the museum's journal, Fieldiana, and co-editor of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. He authored more than 80 scientific papers, 46 of them on Erythroxylum, but was never able to complete his treatment of the genus for the Flora Neotropica. In his ethnobotanical writings, he was an eloquent champion of the traditional use of coca by indigenous peoples of the Andes and Northwest Amazon. His unpublished research, which includes a specimen cardfile and photography collection, is archived at the Field Museum.
Plowman was vice president of the Beneficial Plant Research Association, a Fellow of the Linnean Society and a member of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, the Society of Economic Botany, the Council of Biology Editors, the Society of Ethnobiology and the New England Botanical Club. Anthurium plowmanii Croat, which is widespread in the Amazon basin and into southern Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, is named in his honour.
W. Burger, 1989, "Timothy Plowman (1944-1989)", Taxon, 38(2): 329-330
W. Davis, 1989, "Timothy Charles Plowman: In Memoriam", Aroideana, 12(1-4): 16-19.
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