Schultes, Richard Evans (1915-2001)
Barclay, Arthur Stewart (1932-2003)
Beaman, John Homer (1929-) (co-collector, student)
Black, George Alexander (1916-1957) (co-collector)
Cabrera Rodríguez, Isidoro (fl. 1957-1984) (co-collector)
Cuatrecasas Arumi, José (1903-1996) (co-collector)
Daly, Douglas Charles de Burgh (1953-) (student)
Davis, Edmund Wade (1953-) (student)
Fernández P., A. (1920-1994)
Freeberg, John A. (fl. 1955-1984)
Gutiérrez Villegas, Gabriel (fl. 1941-1948)
Humbert, Jean-Henri (1887-1967)
Idrobo Muñoz, Jesús Medardo (1917-)
Jaramillo Mejía, Roberto (1919-2006)
Kennedy, Helen (1944-)
Lockwood, Tommie Earl (1941-1975)
López, Francisco (fl. 1947-1998)
Pires, João Murça (1917-1994)
Plowman, Timothy Charles (Tim) (1944-1989) (co-collector, student)
Postarino, Nazzareno (fl. 1942)
Raffauf, R.F. (fl. 1966)
Reko, Blas Pablo (Blasius Paul) (1877-1953) (co-collector)
Silva, Antônio da (fl. 1946-1949) (co-collector)
Sledge, William Arthur (1904-1991) (co-author)
Smith, Claude Earle (1922-1987) (co-collector)
Soejarto, Djaja Djendoel (Doel) (1939-) (co-collector)
Tovar Serpa, Oscar (1923-) (co-collector)
Villarreal V., Mardoqueo (fl. 1941-1948) (co-collector)
Schultes was born in Boston, the son of a plumber who worked in a local brewery. To pass the time while he was recovering from a stomach ailment that confined him to his room for several months at the age of six, his parents read to him from Notes of a Botanist on the Amazon and the Andes, the travel diary of the 19th-century English naturalist Richard Spruce. Spruce's adventures left such a powerful impression on the young boy that he resolved to follow in his footsteps. Many years later Schultes wrote the foreword to a new edition of Notes of a Botanist and helped raise funds for the restoration of the headstone on Spruce's grave in Yorkshire. He received a full scholarship to Harvard, where he was mentored by the economic botanist and orchidologist Oakes Ames, director of the Harvard Botanical Museum, who encouraged him to pursue a career in plant exploration.
For his undergraduate project, he researched the ritualistic use of peyote by the Kiowa Indians of Oklahoma. His doctoral thesis, also at Harvard, was a study of the economic aspects of plants of Oaxaca. He was the first botanist to identify the botanical sources of teonanactl – the Flesh of the Gods – and ololiuqui, hallucinogenic plants revered by the Aztecs. Teonanactl turned out to be a mushroom, Panaeolus sphinctrinus (Fr.) Quél.; ololiuqui, the seeds from a species of morning glory, Turbina corymbosa Raf., which contain chemicals very close to LSD. Schultes was also the first scientist to study the psychedelic mushroom Psilocybe cubensis (Earle) Singer.
His work on the sacred plants of South America inadvertently launched the psychedelic era in the United States after Time magazine published an article on him entitled "Seeking the Magic Mushroom" in its May 13, 1957 issue. It attracted an underground following and influenced cultural icons like Aldous Huxley, William Burroughs, Carlos Castoneda, and especially Timothy Leary, then a young lecturer at Harvard, who travelled to Mexico to ingest mushrooms and afterwards began the drug experiments that eventually led to his dismissal from the university. For Schultes, who partook in the religious ceremonies of a dozen tribes and consulted local shamans about the properties of the plants he collected, these were sacred plants of Amerindians that should be studied for their medicinal value. He had no patience for the metaphysical ramblings of 1960s drug gurus.
After his PhD was completed, Scultes was sponsored by the National Research Council to study the plant sources of curare, a fast-dissipating arrow poison used by native tribes in the Colombian Amazon to hunt prey. He found that more than 70 species of plants are used to produce different versions of the drug, which can be a mixture of as many as 15 different ingredients. On his first day in Colombia, he discovered a new species of orchid on the outskirts of Bogotá, Pachyphyllum schultesii L.O. Williams, the first of many to be named after him. When news reached him that the United States had entered the Second World War, he left the rainforest and presented himself at the American Embassy in Bogotá to enlist in the armed forces. But the government decided he could better serve the war effort as a botanist doing research on rubber, which was in desperately short supply since the Japanese occupation of Malaysia. His mission was to discover and collect seeds from natural variants of Hevea in South America and send them to a team of scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture in Turrialba, Costa Rica, where they were tested for disease resistance and rubber yield. After the war, he changed the focus of this work to the collection of living plant material for cultivation in the plantations of tropical countries in Asia and Africa. Schultes collected more than 3,500 specimens of Hevea and near the end of his life was working on a monograph of the genus.
Until 1953, when he was recalled to Harvard after an administrator discovered he had taken out only a one-year leave of absence, Schultes lived almost continuously in the South American rainforests studying the role of plants in native cultures, with only brief visits to the United States. He visited scores of tributaries of the Amazon, generally alone or with a single native companion, carrying only the essentials in his portable canoe and living off the land for months at a time. Once he was gone so long that friends in Bogotá gave him up for dead and were in the process of arranging a memorial service when he reappeared at the National Herbarium.
On his return to Harvard, Schultes was named curator of the orchid herbarium of Oakes Ames at the Botanical Museum, and five years later became curator of economic botany (1958-1985), and eventually executive director (1967-1970) and director (1970-1985) of the museum. In his laboratory, which gained a reputation as the centre of ethnobotanic research in the United States, he began the intensive work of identifying the plants he collected during his time in Colombia and on yearly return visits with some of his students. He produced more than 450 scientific articles and 10 books. He was also one of the founding members of the Economic Botany Society and edited the journal for 18 years (1962-1979). He and his student Timothy Plowman are the subjects of the best-selling book by E. Wade Davis, another former student, One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest, which was nominated for the 1997 Governor General's Award for Nonfiction, one of Canada's most prestigious literary prizes.
His awards include gold medals from the Linnean Society of London and the World Wildlife Fund; the Tyler Ecology Prize; the Lindbergh Award; the Harvard Medal; and the Order of the Cross of Boyacá (the highest honour given by the Republic of Colombia). He was elected to the scientific academies of Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, and India, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Linnean Society of London, and the Third World Academy of Sciences. In 1995 he was laureate of the Global 500 Forum of the United Nations Environmental Programme. The Schultes Award was established in his honour by the Healing Forest Conservancy to recognise outstanding contributions to the field of ethnobotany. Three genera, 120 species, and 2.2 million acres of protected rainforest are named after him.
M.J. Balick, "In Gratitude: Richard Evans Schultes 1915-2001", Plant Talk, 25: 34-35
M.J. Balick, 2001, "In Memoriam: Richard Evans Schultes 1915-2001", Herbal Gram, 52: 61-62
W. Davis, 1996, "One River: Excerpts from the new book about the life of ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes", Herbal Gram, 38: 32-29, 63-64
H. Giradet, 2001, "Richard Schultes", The Guardian, 26 April 2001
J. Kandell, 2001, "Richard E. Schultes , 86, Dies; Trailblazing Authority of Hallucinogenic Plants", New York Times, 13 April 2001
L. Sequeira, 2006, "Richard Evans Schultes 1915-2001", National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs, 88: 338-351.
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