The Tropical Botanist
Today is the anniversary of the death of the American botanist Alwyn Howard Gentry.
It's been 75 years since Alwyn's life was tragically cut short when his plane crashed in fog into a forested mountain during a treetop survey in Ecuador. At the time, Alwyn was just 48 years old, and he was at the peak of his career. Alwyn was regarded as a towering figure in tropical biology and ranked among the world's leading field biologists. He also was the senior curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Theodore Parker III was also on the plane with Alwyn. Parker was a world expert ornithologist.
Parker's fiance survived the crash, and she told a reporter that both Alwyn and Parker had survived the crash as well. But sadly, they were both trapped in the wreckage of the plane, and without immediate medical attention, they passed away together the following morning. The only consolation for the many who knew and loved them was that Alwyn and Parker both died doing what they loved.
Throughout his professional life, Alwyn had been in awe of the powerful pull of the rainforest, writing:
"The Amazon is a world of lush green vegetation, and abundant waters has inspired naturalists, fortune hunters, dreamers, explorers, and exploiters."
According to Conservation International, Alwyn had collected more specimens than any other living botanist of his time - a staggering 70,000 plants.
To this day, botanists rely on Gentry's Guide to the Woody Plants of Peru for understanding and direction when it comes to neotropical and tropical plants.