William Baldwin

I’ve talked a little bit about Baldwin (born March 29, 1779) before in the context of another botanist in this show William Darlingon. We know that Baldwin died young of tuberculosis (a disease that was thought to be genetic at the time – and both of his parents had it) and also that he had a love of botany, inspired by his relationship with Moses Marshall. Baldwin himself is an interesting case, as he followed a different kind of botanical mold than Darlington or the Marshalls. Though he was a medical doctor like Moses and Darlington, his main focus was on scientific botany, and he was more of a specialist focusing on the sedge family of plants (Cyperaceae). Baldwin’s relationship with Darlington started with them going to the University of Pennsylvania together and was important and very touching when Darlington got sick and started missing classes. Baldwin was the only one who took serious notice and he helped nurse his friend back to health. Sadly, it was Baldwin’s health that turned out to be a problem and he died while serving as the botanist on an ill-fated expedition to explore the Missouri River. Though he died at only 40 years old, his botanical papers, notes, collections, and letters would live on thanks to the efforts of Darlington and other major botanists of the time like John Torrey and Asa Gray. Baldwin’s picture below is not my work, but a drawing from the time period that gets across some of his gentle intelligence.


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