Friday, April 12, 2013

Kate Furbish (1834 – 1931)

Kate Furbish was born Catherine in Exeter, New Hampshire, on May 19, 1834, to Benjamin and Mary
Lane Furbish. When she was barely a year of age, the family relocated to Brunswick, Maine, where she developed a passionate interest for wildflowers. Like many young women of her time, Kate pursued a genteel education, which included painting and the study of French literature; she even spent a year in Paris perfecting her painting. In 1860, however, a serious interest for science gripped Furbish after she attended a series of botany lectures in Boston by George L. Goodale, later a professor of botany at Harvard.

The bulk of Furbish's life's work--collecting, classifying, and drawing the flora of Maine--was done between 1870 and 1908. By 1880 she had earned respect among well-known naturalists, including the eminent American botanist Asa Gray. In 1894, Furbish also helped to found the Josselyn Botanical Society of Maine and she served as president in 1911. In 1908, Furbish bequeathed her collection of paintings and drawings to Bowdoin College. She died on December 6, 1931.

Furbish lousewort
Kate Furbish's name gained fame in 1976 when the wild snapdragon, named the Furbish lousewort, was rediscovered after having been believed to be extinct. This discovery helped stall and eventually stop the building of the Dickey-Lincoln dam and reservoir on the St. John's River, which would have flooded 88,000 acres of northern Maine forests.

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