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Liberty Hyde Bailey

Updated on December 1, 2016

Liberty Hyde Bailey was an American botanist and educator. Born South Haven, Michigan, March 15, 1858.

Bailey, whose boyhood was spent on a frontier farm, went from a one-room school to study botany at Michigan Agricultural College. After graduating in 1882, he studied at Harvard University for a time, then returned to Michigan to teach horticulture. In 1888 he became a professor of horticulture at Cornell University. During his 25 years at Cornell, Bailey was instrumental in the establishment of the New York State College of Agriculture. He was dean of the college from its founding in 1903 until he retired in 1913.

In addition to being a great teacher and administrator, Bailey was a pioneer in establishing early agricultural extension and nature study courses. He also carried on botanical experiments and wrote articles and books. In 1908, at the request of President Theodore Roosevelt, Bailey agreed to serve as chairman of the Commission on Country Life in America. Its recommendations resulted in establishment of the parcel post system, federal extension service, and federal support of other rural programs.

After retiring Bailey pursued his early interest in plant classification. In 1935, collections of botanical specimens, books, and correspondence that resulted from his worldwide travels were given to Cornell University as the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium.

Bailey wrote more than 60 books. The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture and editions of Hortus Second and the Manual of Cultivated Plants have become standard reference works. He was a founding member of the Botanical Society of America and the American Society for Horticultural Science. In addition to numerous medals, he was awarded honorary degrees from four universities.

Liberty Hyde Bailey died in Ithaca, N.Y., on December 25, 1954.


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