Asa Gray was one of the central figures in American botany in the nineteenth century. Through his writing, teaching, collection, and correspondence, he had a major influence on the study of plants in the United States. Born in New York, Gray earned a medical degree before going to work for the famed American botanist John Torrey in 1833. By 1843 Torrey and Gray had published two volumes of the Flora of North America. A planned third volume was never completed. During this time Gray traveled extensively in Europe, where he met with Charles Darwin. Gray later became an important proponent of Darwin's ideas in the United States. In 1842 Gray became a professor at Harvard University, founding an herbarium there that still bears his name. Gray worked at a time when the American West was being explored systematically, and through his correspondence with collectors he greatly influenced where and how plants were collected, and how the information gleaned was used and disseminated. His prolific writings from this period include Manual of Botany of the Northern United States, a highly popular textbook Elements of Botany, and the first half of Synoptical Flora of North America, which was completed by others after Gray died.
SEE ALSO Torrey, John