John Milton Bigelow (1804-1878)

John Milton Bigelow was a surgeon and botanist from Ohio. In 1849, after publishing a treatise on grasses and a book entitled A list of the medicinal plants of Ohio, he joined the Army expedition led by Lt. Amiel Weeks Whipple to survey the U.S-Mexican border. In 1853 he again joined Whipple on one of the exploration parties sent out by the War Department to “ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.” It was following this expedition that Bigelow made botanical collecting trips to northern California.

In his 1949 Marin Flora, John Thomas Howell says: “John M. Bigelow…came to the San Francisco Bay region in the spring of 1854, and from April 16 to 20 he made a botanical collecting trip through the redwoods north of Mount Tamalpais to the ocean on Point Reyes Peninsula. Never before had these parts been visited by a botanist, and his collection with respect to the novelties in it, is the richest ever made in the region. Scoliopus and Whipplea, two genera of frequent occurrence in the woods of Marin County, were based on Bigelow’s collection, and no fewer than twenty species and varieties were described by Torrey and others in the botanical reports of the expedition and elsewhere. From Marin County, Bigelow went on to other rich fields in Sonoma and Napa counties, and thence to the foothills and middle slopes of the Sierra Nevada, but it is not likely that anywhere in all his travels, in or out of California, did he ever enjoy an excursion so rich as the one from Corte de Madera and Rancho San Geronimo to Punta de los Reyes.”

Internet Sources:

John Milton Bigelow (1804-1878) biography from the Ohio Historical Society

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