In December 1927, the Trustees approved "…an appropriation not to exceed $15,000.00 for the erection of a botanical laboratory." The Botany Building was "...designed by a member of the engineering staff from sketches submitted..." by Professor William H. Eyster, Class of 1914, and Professor of Botany from 1928 to 1945, who had taught at the University of Missouri and the University of Maine and had been a Guggenheim Fellow before coming to Bucknell. Completed in 1928, the building cost $30,103.00; equipment and furnishings cost an additional $4,417.00.

The Experimental Field and Research in Genetics

In addition to the building and its greenhouse, there was “...an extensive experimental field for the growing of plants in connection with the investigations that [were] being conducted as a part of the work in botany.” In 1930, research focused on “...problems in the genetics of maize and in the physiology of chlorophyll.” Dr Eyster “...develop[ed] marigolds, petunias, nasturtiums, corn and other plants that attracted nation-wide attention to Bucknell’s work in plant breeding, and also helped to interest Mr. David Burpee, the Philadelphia seedsman, in Bucknell.”

In 1933, Trustee David Burpee established a fellowship in genetics at Bucknell, which was described in the Catalogue:

The Burpee Fellowship in Genetics was established by the W. Atlee Burpee Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the creation of scientifically new and commercially valuable types of plants. It is open only to graduate students with sufficient training in the languages, mathematics, the sciences, and experimental work The stipend amounts to $500 and tuition.

Research in connection with this fellowship resulted in the creation of "...the now famous Burpee's Red and Gold Hybrid Marigold," which was "...produced commercially and sold by the W. Atlee Burpee Company of Philadelphia." The Burpee Fellowship was not awarded in either the 1944-1945 or 1945-1946 Academic Years.

The Bucknell Alumni Research Foundation

In 1941, the Trustees authorized the creation of a Bucknell Alumni Research Foundation. Of particular interest was "…the matter of developing certain products of Dr. Eyster, on a plan which should make some money for the university, along the same lines as a similar organization founded a number of years ago by the Alumni of the University of Wisconsin." The next year, Dr. Eyster was "designated as Research Professor of Genetics." In 1943, Eyster developed "Tunisia:" another red and gold marigold, which "...symbolize[d] the red blood of American soldiers spilled on the hot sands of French North and West Africa." All the royalties from the sale of this hybrid were "...donated to American soldiers needing menal [sic] and spiritual rehabilitation because of infjures received while fighting in North Aftica." By 1944, Penn-Hybrid seed corns, which had been developed by Eyster for Pennsylvania farmers as well as farmers in neighboring states, were being distributed by local dealers as well as by the Bucknell Alumni Research Foundation.

In 1945, Eyster resigned from Bucknell and became Professor of Botany at Baldwin-Wallace College and the president of the Eyster Hybrid Seed Company.

The Botany Building in 1945

In 1945, the first floor of the Botany Building contained laboratories for class work and for research, a recitation room, a herbarium and seed room, and a photographic dark room. The main floor contained a lecture room; laboratories for work in botany, forestry and geology; a library and reading room; an experimental dark room; and an office. The greenhouse (slightly visible to the left in the photograph) was built in sections to permit different temperature conditions. Dr Wayne E. Manning had replaced Dr. Eyster and was in the first year of his twenty-three years at Bucknell. He taught courses in general botany, forestry, cultivated plants, morphology, physiology, plant histology, and taxonomy. Like Eyster, he had received his Ph.D from Cornell University.

"...an appropriation not..." BT '20-'50, 12/17/1927, p. 2

"...designed by a..." MBU '19-'31, p. 110

"...an extensive experimental..."ib., p. 52

"...problems in the genetics..." ib., p. 53

"...develop[ed] marigolds..." Theiss, p. 294

"The Burpee Fellowship..." CAT '34-'35, p.154

"...the now famous..." Eyster letter to Eisley, 11/12/1940

"...the matter of developing.." BT, 12/20/1941, p. 5

"designated as..." ib., 5/23/1942, p. 3

"...symbolize[d] the red blood..." and "donated to American..." Lewisburg Journal, 10/28/1943

The major source for the information on this page is the Minutes of the Board of Trustees of Bucknell University, 1920-1950 (BT '20-'50). Additional sources are Theiss, Centennial History; Memorials of Bucknell University, 1919-1931(MBU '19-'31) ; letter from William H. Eyster to Trennie Eisley, 11/12/1940; "BU Botanist Adds New Hybrid to Marigold Family", Lewisburg Journal, 10/28/1943; materials in the Bucknell University Archives; Who Was Who in America V. 5, 1969-1973; and the Catalogue of Bucknell University, Eighty-ninth Year, 1934-1935 (CAT '34-35), the Bucknell University Bulletin, Catalogue Issue, Ninety-Ninth Year, 1944-1945 (CAT '44-'45) and the Bucknell University Bulletin, Catalogue Issue, One Hundredth Year, January, 1946 (CAT '45-'46).

This building in other years: 1965 | 1985 | Current
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