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Botanical Companions

A Memoir of Plants and Place

Frieda Knobloch, Wayne Franklin

Publication Year: 2005

In her luminous inquiry into the intricate connections among work, place, and people, Frieda Knobloch explores the lives of two Rocky Mountain botanists, Aven Nelson (1859-1952) and Ruth Ashton Nelson (1896-1987). Aven was a professor of botany at the University of Wyoming for many years; Ruth compiled field guides to Rocky Mountain plants and wrote articles on botany for magazines. The two met and married when Aven was in his seventies and Ruth was in her mid thirties, and they developed a symbiotic partnership that joined work and play, learning and companionship. Into this relatively straightforward reconstruction of two lives Knobloch blends the history of her own life as a scholar and an amateur naturalist, her own journal entries, and her letters written to Ruth to create a transformative environmental auto/biography.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xii

In this fascinating study of the creation and preservation of botanical knowledge, Frieda Knobloch most of all asks us to consider how we image—and imagine—the order of the world. The sciences propose many answers to her question. Anyone who has taken introductory chemistry classes in high...

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. 1-12

This book is a record of transformations both of my subjects and of my own. Its chapters are experiments. They tell stories in different ways, and their order is another story, in academic prose giving way to narrative and memory, about the ways we learn from (and about) people in specific places. A...

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Work in Place

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pp. 15-38

This is a brief study of the role of place in shaping intellectual work, particularly scientific field work about that place, in an individual life.1 The work included botany and public advocacy for people’s knowledge and pleasure in the nonhuman world, especially where they lived; the place was and...

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pp. 39-72

The Rocky Mountain Herbarium now occupies the third floor of the Aven Nelson Memorial Building on the west end of the University of Wyoming campus, near the oldest university building and Nelson’s first workplace. It was built to house the university’s library in 1922; its construction was one of...

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pp. 73-84

Ruth Elizabeth Ashton was born 29 November 1896 in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Ruth told Aven’s biographer, Roger Williams, that she was “reared on Martha’s Vineyard where her interest in plants first blossomed during her childhood.”1 Former student Jane Ramsey, who took classes from Ruth in Rocky Mountain National Park and interviewed her in 1984, said she was “devoted to...

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pp. 85-102

Dear Mrs. Nelson, I’m writing because I have been working with the papers you left to the University of Wyoming archive, and your collection books at the Rocky Mountain Herbarium. I have been interested in the work of the herbarium since I came to the university in 1997 and have been grateful to be able to...

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Habeas Corpus

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pp. 103-130

On 15 July 1959 in Glacier National Park near Avalanche Creek, Ruth Nelson wrote enigmatically in her travel journal: “Reflections—objects passing behind me (as I sit in the car) are imperfectly reflected in the opposite glass of the windows—by turning to reality I see the true, correct...

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pp. 131-156

I notice his age first, because he is thirty-six, and so am I. His clothes are formal by my standards—vest, trousers, jacket. Sensible boots laced up above his ankles. He looks midwestern, sturdy and blond, scholarly now, and slight. He seems comfortable here. I won’t disturb him. He is curved over plant specimens...

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Red Desert Reprise

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pp. 157-158

A year later I go back. I go back to walk up Oregon Buttes again—a palpable being on the edge of the desert. It is as much a sound as it is anything else. I go back to see someone. Some of his country is on the other side of the divide, in the mountains, with the elk, moose, deer, creeks, fish, and hunting...


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pp. 159-175


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pp. 177-182

E-ISBN-13: 9781587294525
E-ISBN-10: 1587294524
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877459200
Print-ISBN-10: 0877459207

Page Count: 198
Publication Year: 2005

Edition: first

OCLC Number: 82707446
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Botanical Companions

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Subject Headings

  • Nelson, Aven, 1859-1952.
  • Nelson, Ruth Ashton, 1896-.
  • Botanists -- Wyoming -- Biography.
  • Botany -- Rocky Mountains Region.
  • Knobloch, Frieda E. -- Travel -- Rocky Mountains Region.
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