Richard A. (Alden) Howard was born on July 1, 1917 in Stamford, Connecticut and grew up in Warren, Ohio. He obtained a B.A. degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in 1938. In September of the same year he came to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts to work as a technician for Professor I.W. Bailey. After a brief stint at the New York Botanical Garden, where he studied Caribbean vegetation, Howard returned to Harvard, where he earned his MA (1940) and Ph.D (1940) studying the Icacinaceae family of plants (his dissertation was entitled Studies of the Icacinaceae: a monograph of the New World genera). In 1942, Howard enlisted in the armed forces, where after being moved from one area to another due to various complications, he served for a time in an aviation psychology program at Randolph Field, Texas. With his knowledge of botany, he taught soldiers how to survive if they should become stranded in the Pacific. The Air Force soon adapted Howard's tactics into the new Jungle Survival Program (of the School of Applied Tactics) in Orlando, Florida, where Howard served as head of this program. In 1947, Howard was awarded the Legion of Merit from the U.S. Air Force for his work on survival skills.
After his discharge from the army in 1946, Howard held various professional positions, including Assistant Curator at the New York Botanical Garden, Assistant Professor at Harvard University, and Professor of Botany at the University of Connecticut. He also continued his fieldwork in botany in the Caribbean, publishing numerous works on the genus Coccoloba (Polygonaceae), the Icacinaceae, and the stem-node-leaf continuum of dicots. Howard's many research trips culminated in his major published work, the six-volume Flora of the Lesser Antilles (1974-1989).
In 1954, Howard was appointed Director of the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, a position he retained for almost 25 years. He faced a challenging obstacle in his role as Director when the Arnold Arboretum and the Gray Herbarium in Cambridge disagreed over a proposal to move part of the Arboretum's collections to the Herbarium. This extremely difficult conflict stretched from 1954 to 1967 and only ended with the involvement of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. During this time, he also served as Professor of Dendrology at Harvard, where his research focused on plant anatomy and plant systematics, particularly as pertaining to the flora of the West Indies. Howard worked with aluminum companies in the Caribbean and Hawaii to develop successful techniques for the revegetation of strip-mined areas for use as farmland and sources of lumber, and also served as Vice President for Botanical Science at the New York Botanical Garden from 1989 to 1990. In addition, he worked with doctors at the National Institutes of Health to develop cancer medicines from plants.
Howard received many awards throughout his 49-year career, including American horticulture's highest honor, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Medal (1978).
Dr. Howard married Elizabeth Solie in 1944 in San Antonio, Texas. The Howards are the parents of four children: Jean Elizabeth Howard, Barbara Jo Howard, Bruce Richard Howard, and Philip George Howard.
Dr. Howard died on September 18 2003, at his home in Cohasset, Massachusetts at the age of 86.
Scope and Content:
This collection consists of field notes, articles, correspondence, photographs, biographical information, unpublished research notes and botanical plates, and numerous personal items.
Series I. Field Notes: Notebooks containing notes from various research trips, 1940-1998.
Series II. Eponyms Project: Binders with notes on unpublished project to list name and information for every plant in the world named after a person. This series also includes notes, articles, computer disks.
Series III. Artifacts: Items found in Dr. Howard's office at the Harvard University Herbaria, 2004-2005.
Series IV. Lesser Antilles Plates: Original copies of plates for Flora of the Lesser Antilles : Leeward and Windward Islands published by the Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University, 1974-1989.
Series V. Bill Gillis Papers: Papers and correspondence relating to unpublished manuscript by Bill Gillis, Lectotypification of Names in the Bahama Flora.
Series VI. Photographs of Plants: Collection of photographs taken 1970-1979 and placed in binders. These are in 2 groups- Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons.
Series VII. Miscellaneous Papers: Papers include materials regarding the Harvard Botanical Garden, the Atkins Institution at Soledad, Cuba, and other various items.
Series VIII. Biographical Information: List of published works, articles, photographs, video and cassette tapes of interview.