1820 Today the botanist Edwin James, along with two companions, made the first ascent of Pikes Peak, Rocky Mountains, Colorado.
Interested in plants from a very young age, James botanized extensively in his home state of Vermont, and he compiled the very first Flora of Vermont plants.
James left his mark on the botanical world when he went on one of the first expeditions of the American West - traveling from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains. On the way of Pikes Peak, James came across the mountain Columbine, Aquilegia caerulea, which ultimately became known as the Colorado Blue Columbine and the State Flower of Colorado.
James' account of his climb up Pikes Peak stated:
"A little above the point where the timber disappears entirely commences a region of astonishing beauty . . . covered with a carpet of low but brilliantly flowering alpine plants. . ."
And James' words, "a region of astonishing beauty," became the title of a 2003 book on the botanical history of the Rocky Mountains by Roger Lawrence Williams.
After the expedition, James married and settled in Burlington, Iowa. In a sidenote that reveals his loving heart, James' home was part of the Underground Railroad.
James died in 1861 after an accident. There is a monument to James on Pike's Peak, and the Des Moines County Medical Society planted Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine on his grave in the Rock Springs Cemetery in Iowa. Newspaper accounts say the location of Edwin James' grave was in the most picturesque part of southeastern Iowa.