Timothy Plowman's interest in and love for plants developed while
growing up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This passion for plants became a major focal point in his life.
Tim attended college at Cornell University.
His graduate studies at Harvard University resulted in a Master's Degree in 1970 and a doctorate in 1974.
His research interests at Harvard, under the guidance of Richard Evans Schultes, focused on ethnobotany and
the systematics of Brunfelsia (tomato family), a group that served as the basis for his doctoral thesis.
Tim became the world's authority on the ethnobotany of coca,
and the taxonomy of the large genus, Erythroxylum, from which coca is derived.
Although Dr. Plowman succeeded in publishing about 50 scientific papers on Erythroxylum during his short career, he never was
able to complete a treatment of the genus for Flora Neotropica. He did, however, leave behind massive data resources.
|Above: Timothy Plowman in Peru.|
He published more than 60 scientific papers, many of them dealing with ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology, and served in an editorial capacity for several journals. He did intensive fieldwork and collecting in tropical South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Tim joined The Field Museum in 1978, became tenured in 1983, and was appointed Curator in 1988.
|Above: Timothy Plowman collecting in Peru.|
In addition to carrying out an active scientific program, Tim served as scientific editor of the Museum's research journal, Fieldiana, for four years. As chairman of the Botany Department (1986-1988), Tim obtained a substantial increase in National Science Foundation funding for the herbarium and developed a new facility for the curation of the economic botany collections.
Because he actively and enthusiastically interacted with diverse scholars, he was able to promote a wide range of interdisciplinary studies regarding the archaeology, ethnobotany, chemistry, and pharmacology of coca and other economic plants. His strong motivation and high professional standards were evident in all his work, and these attributes made him an effective chairman and editor.
Away from work, Tim loved to grow plants, both indoors and out. His incredible garden was a source of pride and joy for him.
Written by Wade Davis, Ph.D.
for Timothy Plowman's Memorial Service,
The Field Museum, January, 1989.
Please send all comments, questions and requests to: Christine Niezgoda.