Charles Edwin Bessey

Charles Edwin Bessey was born May 21, 1845 in Milton, Ohio. He received a B.S. (1869) and an honorary M.S. (1872) from Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan State University); an honorary Ph.D. (1879) from the State University of Iowa (University of Iowa); and a LL.D. (1898) from Grinnell College.

Bessey held several positions at the Iowa Agricultural College (Iowa State University), including Instructor of Botany and Horticulture (1870-1873); Professor of Botany, Zoology, and Entomology (1874-1877); Professor of Botany (1878-1884); Vice President of the College (1882); and Acting President of the College (1882). He guided the Department of Botany during its formative years and created the first undergraduate botanical laboratory in the United States. Bessey also established Iowa State University's herbarium, which was named the Ada Hayden Herbarium in 1988.

Bessey left Iowa State in 1884 to become the first Dean of Agriculture at the University of Nebraska (1884-1915). He was also the Acting President of the University (1888-1891, 1909) and Dean of Deans (1909-1915). While in Nebraska, Bessey was chosen as Scientist of the State Board of Agriculture. He also initiated a tree planting experiment that resulted in the Nebraska National Forest, the first man-made national forest in the world. In 1918, Bessey was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement.

Charles E. Bessey was the author of numerous articles and publications, including The Essentials of Botany (1884), which he later re-wrote with his son, Ernst Bessey, and re-titled The Essentials of College Botany (1914). Charles Bessey actively participated in several professional organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (president, 1910-1912), Botanical Society of America (president, 1895-1896), and the Department of Natural Science of the National Education Association (president, 1895-1896).

Charles Bessey married Lucy Athearn (1847-19??) December 25, 1873. They had three sons: Edward Athearn (1875-1910), Ernst Athearn (1877-1957), and Karl Athearn (1878-19??).

Bessey passed away February 25, 1915 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Charles Edwin Bessey Papers

RS 13/5/11
University Archives, Iowa State University Library