The rich and varied Harvard University botanical collections trace back to the activities of Asa Gray, who came to Harvard in 1842. Gray arrived at a particularly opportune time in American botanical history. Private collectors accompanying various survey expeditions in the expanding American West were sending back an abundance of specimens to scholars in the East. Gray, who had been collaborating with John Torrey in New York on a Flora of North America, was the ideal person to receive, describe and catalogue them, many of which proved new to science. At the same time Gray used duplicates from those collections to exchange with his colleagues in other parts of the world, who themselves were reaping the fruits of an expanding period of exploration in the Old World. The results of those efforts, which continue to this day, have resulted in a collection cosmopolitan in scope, unique in much of its representation and, with well over five million specimens, among the largest in the world. (more…)