Josiah Hale

Josiah Hale
(1791? – 1856)

Information compiled by Carol Ann McCormick (NCU).
Special thanks to Paul G. St-Pierre, Research & Instruction Librarian, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium has nine specimens collected by Josiah Hale.  All were gifts from the Jesup Herbarium of Dartmouth College (HNH) to NCU in 2002.  All were collected in Louisiana, and none contain year of collection. As we continue to catalog NCU, it is possible that more specimens collected by Josiah Hale will be found.

Josiah Hale was a native of Virginia (1).  He studied botany with Rafinesque at Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky in 1820-1821, and earned a medical degree on March 18, 1822 from that institution.  His thesis“Ascaris lumbricoides” was a study of the largest and most common parasitic nematode in humans.  Dr. Hale settled near Alexandria, Louisiana in 1825.  In 1831 Hale wrote a long account of an illness – probably Yellow Fever –that afflicted residents of Alexandria in 1830.   He practiced medicine until 1834, then devoted his energies to botany.  Torrey and Gray, in their Synopical Flora of North America (1838), frequently cite specimens obtained from Hale. Engelmann, Darlington, Leavenworth, Eaton, Short and Durand were among his botanical correspondents.

In 1838 Hale married Mrs. Martha Crain, a widow of Lake Cotaille in Rapides Parish, Lousiana.  They had two daughters, Virginia and Elizabeth.  Hale’s financial fortunes took a turn for the worse in the economic crash of 1845-1846, and he returned to practicing medicine. He moved to New Orleans in 1850, and lived on Girod Street, between St. Charles Avenue and Carondelet.  During the yellow fever epidemic of 1853, he tended the sick of Shreveport, Louisiana.  By 1854, he was associated with J. G. Potter & Co., “apothecaries and chemists, wholesale and retail dealers in drugs, medicines, French and English chemicals, patent medicines, surgical instruments, etc.” (1).

Hale served as the first President of the Louisiana State Medical Society (elected in 1849), and as the first President of the New Orleans Academy of Sciences (elected in 1853).  The only botanical publication Hale wrote was “Report on the medical botany of the state of Lousiana” which was published in the New Orleans Medical & Surgical Journal in 1852.   Josiah Hale’s specimens in the Tulane Herbarium, about one hundred, are from the Academy’s herbarium (1,2).

Along with Josiah Hale, John Leonard Riddell (1807-1865) was a serious student of the flora of Louisiana (3).  Riddell had bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rensselaer and earned an M.D. while teaching chemistry and botany at the Cincinnati Medical College in 1835. He published on the flora of Ohio and the west while at Cincinnati. In 1836 he was made Professor of Chemistry at the Medical College of Louisiana, moved to New Orleans, and took up the study of Louisiana flora.  Riddell contributed a manuscript work — Plants of Louisiana to the Smithsonian Institution in 1851. The manuscript was supposed to include scientific and common names of plants existing in Louisiana, with localities, times of flowering and full descriptions of new species. W.M. Carpenter and Josiah Hale also worked on this manuscript, and Hale was responsible for the Cyperaceae and Gramineae. The Smithsonian declined to publish the manuscript, so Riddell published an abridged version entitled Catalogus florae ludovicianae in the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, vol. VIII, May 1852.  Riddell’s specimens at Tulane, numbering about 125, were, like Hale’s, from the New Orleans Academy of Sciences herbarium.

There are many plant taxa named in Josiah Hale’s honor:

The genus Halea “a distinct and very remarkable genus, which we have named in honor of one of its discoverers, Dr. Josiah Hale of Alexandria, Western Louisiana, a zealous botanist, who has favored us with extensive collections and important observations, illustrative of the botany of that region” was named by Torrey & Gray, and contained two species, Halea ludoviciana T. & G. and Halea repanda Buckley (4).  Both are currently placed in the genus Tetragonotheca.

The only plant taxon that seems to have survived synonymy is Verbena halei Small “In sandy soil, Indian Territory to Louisiana and Texas, Spring and summer… Louisiana:  Dr. Hale, no. 245.” (5)

Other plant taxa named in Josiah Hale’s honor include :
Hedyotis halei
 Torr. & Gray (now Pentodon pentandrus (K. Schum.) Vatke)
Andropogon halei Alph. Wood (now Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash)
Astragalus halei Rydb. (Holotype collected by Dr. Hale #313, Louisiana) (now Astragalus canadensis L.)
Capnoides halei Small   “Specimens of the species here described were collected many years ago in Louisiana by Dr. Hale, and lately by Mr. Curtiss has distributed excellent material from the vicinity of Jacksonville, Florida…”  Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 25(3):  137. 1898. (now Corydalis micrantha ssp. australis (Chapm.) G. G. Ownbey
Carex halei Torr. ined. “ in a letter to Mr. Charles Mohr, 1868, who has kindly furnished me with the following description…Marshes and borders of lakes in the Red River Valley, Repides [sic], La., (Hale); eastern Florida (Leavenworth); Carrabelle, Florida.” Britton, N.L. (1886) A preliminary list of North American species of Cyperus, with descriptions of new forms.  Bull. Torr. Bot. Club 13(11):  205-216. (now Cyperus erythrorhizos Muhl.)
Dicliptera halei Riddell (now Yeatesia viridiflora (Nees) Small)
Diplachne halei Nash Holotype collected by Josiah Hale in Louisiana; Holotype at NY-19504; Isotype at US-78814 (now Leptochloa panicoides (J. Presl) Hitchc.)
Thelypteris palustris var. haleana Fernald “Southeastern United States and Bermuda Islands.  LOUISIANA:  marshes, Alexandria, Josiah Hale (TYPE in Gray Herb.)”, p. 34 of  Fernald (1929)  A study of Thelypteris palustris.  Rhodora 31:  27-36.
Willugbaeya Halei Small (now Mikania cordifolia (L.f.) Willd.)

Josiah Hale’s specimen of Sagittaria calycina maxima Engelm. collected in Louisiana is the type specimen. Jared G. Smith re-named it Lophotocarpus calycinus in 1900 (6).

Josiah Hale was also interested in cryptogams (7).  He sent lichen specimens to Edward Tuckerman, professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts, father of American lichenology, and namesake of Tuckerman Ravine on the southeast face of Mount Washington in New Hampshire .  Tuckerman named Parmeliopsis halei in Josiah Hale’s honor.

Hale did not confine himself to medicine and botany, but apparently took great interest in snails, with two species, Melania haleiana and Paludina haleiana , named in his honor. In a letter to Benjamin Leonard Covington Wailes of Natchez, Mississippi, Hales in 1850 wrote, “The town of Natchitoches is the most favorable on the Red river for the collection of shells.  The river having left the old channel presents at a low stage of the water, little more than a series of shallow ponds, the bottoms of which are paved with shells, many of which are of the largest size.  Never having visited Natchitoches when the water was very low I am not able to say whether the shells are identical with those down the river.  I have a beautiful specimen of the U[nio] ohiensis from there, a species rare at Alexandria” (1).   Hale’s observations are cited by conchologist Isaac Lea (8):

Unio atrocostatus.  Testa plicata, subquadrata, inflate; valvulis crassis; natibus promenentibus; epidermide nigra, striata; dentibus cardinalibus magnis; lateralibus sublongis subrectisque; margarita alba et iridescente.  Hab. Claiborne, Ala. – Judge Tait.  Tuscaloosa, Ala. – B.W. Budd, M.d.  Alexandria Louis. – Josiah Hale, M.D.
Unio tumescens.  Testa laevi, triangular, inflate; valvulis percrassis, natibus magnis elevatisque; epidermide tenebroso-fusca, radiate; dentibus cardinalibus parvis; lateralibus brevibus, crassis subcurvisque; margarita alba et iridescente.  Hab.  Alexandria, Louis. – J. Hale, M.D.
Unio fulgidus.  Testa laevi, triangular, inflate; valvulis crassis; natibus magnis elevatisque; epidermide tenebroso-fusca, polita, radiate; dentibus cardinalibus parvis; laberalibus crassis rectisque; margarita alba et iridescente.  Hab.  Alexandria, Louis.  – J. Hale, M.D.
Unio approximus.  Testa laevi, elliptica, inflate; valvulis subcrassis; nativbus prominulis; epidermide lutea, radiate; dentibus cardinalibus parvis, acuminates; lateralibus longis subrectisque; margarita alba et iridescente.  Hab.  Red River at Alexandria, Lou.  – J. Hale, M.D.
Unio symmetricus.  Testa laevi, oblonga, subcompressa, valvulis subcrassis; natibus subpromenentibus; epdermide tenebroso-fusca; dentibus cardinalibus compressis, elevates, acuminates; lateralibus longis lamellatisque; margarita alba.  Hab.  Red River at Alexandria, Lou. – J. Hale, M.D.
Unio caliginosus.  Testa laevi, elliptica, subcompressa; valvulis subtenuibus; natives priminulis ad apicem undulates; epidermide tenebroso-fusca; dentibus cardinalibus compressis, elevates; lateralibus longis subcurvisque; margarita alba et iridescente.  Hab. Red River, at Alexandria, Louisiana – J. Hale, M.D.
Anodonta tetragona.  Testa laevis, oblonga, valde inflate; valvulis tenuibus; natives prominulis; epdermide luteo-fusca, radiate; margarita caeruleo-alba et iridescente.  Hab.  Alexandria, Lou. – J. Hale, M.D.
Melania Haleiana.  Testa laevi, acuto-conoidea, subtenui, luteo-cornea, polita; spira elevate; suturis impressis; anfractibus novenis, convexis; aperture parva, ovate, ad basim subangulta, intus alba.  Hab.  Alexandria, Lou.  J. Hale, M.D.
Melania Alexandrensis.  Testa laevi, subacuto-conoidea, subtenui, tenebroso-cornea; spira subelevata; suturis subimpressis; anfractibus supplanulatis; aperture parva, subtrapezoidea, intus albida.  Hab.  Alexandria, Lou. – J. Hale, M.D.
Melania ovoidea.  Testa laevi, elliptica, subcrassa, cornea; sipra brevi; suturis vix impressis; anfractibus senis, subconvexis; aperture magna, subovata, intus albida.  Hab.  Alexandria, Lou. – J. Hale, M.D.
Paludina Haleiana.  Testa laevi, ventricoso-conoidea, subtenui, rufo cornea, imperforate, spira brevi; suturis valde impressis; anfractibus quaternis, sub-convexis; aperture magna, subrotundata, caerulea.  Hab.  Alexandria, Lou. – J. Hale, M.D.

Hale moved to Canton, Mississippi sometime before 1855, but became ill with heart disease, and returned to New Orleans for treatment, but died there on 21 July, 1856 (1).  Josiah Hale is buried in the Black Bayou Cemetery just outside Vivian, Louisiana (9).

1.  Ewan, Joseph (1977)  Josiah Hale, M.D., Louisiana botanist, Rafinesque’s pupil. Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History. 8: 235-243.

  3. Torrey and Gray (1842)  A Flora of North America 2:  304.
  4. Small (1898)  Studies in the botany of the southeastern United States XV.  Bull. Torr. Bot. Club 25(12):  605-621.
  5. Smith, Jared G.  (1900) Revision of the species of Lophotocarpus of the United States:  and description of a new species of Sagittaria. Missouri Botanical Garden Annual Report 1900:  145-151.
  6. Tucker, Shirley C. (1979)  New or noteworthy records of lichens from Louisiana.  The Bryologist 82(2):  125-140
  7. Lea, Isaac (1847).  Descriptions of new fresh water and land shells.  Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society held at   Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge, Vol. 4, June 1843 to December 1847.  Philadelphia:  John C. Clark..  pp. 162-168. (The full paper is found in the Trans. Amer. Philos. Soc., X, Part I, pp. 67-101.)

Hale, Josiah (1852)  Report on the medical botany of the state of Louisiana.  The New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal  September, 1852:  152- 173; and November, 1852:  38-313.
Hale, Josiah (1831) Observations on the Fever which prevailed at Alexandria, Louisiana, in the Autumn of 1830.  The Transylvania journal of medicine and the associate sciences, Vol. 4 (2):  129  – 145.

OTHER PUBLICATIONS citing Hale or his specimens

MacRoberts, Michael H., Barbara R. MacRoberts, Christopher S. Reid, Patricia L. Faulkner and Dwayne Estes (2007)  Minuartia drummondii (Caryophyllaceae) and Gratiola flava (Plataginaceae) rediscovered in Louisiana and Gratiola flava historically in Arkansas.  Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas 1(1):  763-767.