Ivey Foreman Lewis

(3 August 1882 – 16 March 1964)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) has cataloged less than a dozen botanical specimens collected by Ivey Foreman Lewis. Most specimens were collected ca. 1901 near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus while he was an undergraduate. A few were collected in 1944 in Virginia. As more of NCU’s collections are cataloged it is probable that we will find additional materials collected by Lewis.

Lewis was one of four children born to Richard Henry Lewis (1850-1926), a physician, and Cornelia Viola Battle (1857-1886), daughter of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill President Kemp Plummer Battle. Upon Cornelia’s death, Richard Lewis married Mary Long Gordon of Charlottesville, Virginia. Their only daughter was newswoman, feminist, and segregationist Nell (Cornelia) Battle Lewis (1893-1956).1

Ivey Foreman Lewis graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with an A.B. degree in 1902. In 1903 he completed his S.M. with a minor in botany at Carolina. He earned his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1908 with his thesis on an alga, “The life history of Griffithsia Bornetiana”.  While living in Baltimore, he was a member of the Baltimore Field Naturalist Club. 

“His star rose rapidly as he taught at Randolph Macon College for four years and moved to the University of Wisconsin in 1913.  Churning out publications, Lewis occupied the Smithsonian Table at the Stazione Zoologica, a very prestigious research post in Naples, Italy, and then was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 1914…

Ivey Lewis joined the faculty of the University of Virginia in 1915…

For thirty-eight years, from 1915 until 1953, [University of] Virginia students studied eugenics with… Dr. Ivey Foreman Lewis.  As Miller Professor of Biology and Dean of the University of Virginia, Lewis taught that heredity governed all aspects of life, from anatomical form to social organization.  Throughout his career, Lewis never wavered in his advocacy of eugenics.  While the bulk of scientific opinion changed, Lewis continued teaching heredity and writing about educational theory based upon principles developed in the 1910s.  Many of Lewis’s devoted students adopted his racialist thinking, and some of them then shaped the opinions of white Virginians — and white southerners in general — about race and society.  Term papers written by students in Lewis’s classes and his subsequent correspondence with them, especially from the years surrounding the 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, preserve glimpses of how his students and associates accepted the eugenicist’s lessons that race-mixing meant the destruction of civilization.  Ivey Lewis’s career is a case study revealing links among eugenic discussions about “race,” scientifically justified white supremacy, and the later actions of educated whites who battled desegregation…

Lewis revered authors like Grant, Lothrop Stoddart, and Virginia’s own Earnest Sevier Cox.  These men were Ameria’s primary eugenical propagandists, sounding the racial alarm in provocative books entitled White America, Teutonic Unity, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy, and Revolt Against Civilization.  These works became texts for Ivey Lewis’s course and his personal ideological guides.  Lewis displayed little tolerance for individuals or methodologies that denied what he considered self-evident scientific fact.  Both his teaching and his ruminations about educational policy manifest this intolerance.  Lewis became an influential figure in Virginia education rising to become the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the [University of Virginia] and traveling throughout the state speaking to educators… As a result of its status, the University of Virginia was an epicenter of eugenical thought, closely linked with the national eugenics movement and with the Virginia antimiscegenation movement and tied to the state mental heal professionals who promoted eugenic sterilization.  And, coupling the lack of a strong populist impulse in Virginia’s political culture with the large number of university graduates in the state assembly, elites schooled in eugenics had a distinct advantage in affecting social policy.  Thus, Virginia and its university provided fertile intellectual soil for the growth and propagation of eugenical seed planted by Lewis’s teaching… In his professional swan song, performed in 1951 on a national stage at the annual convention of the AAAS [American Association for the Advancement of Science], Lewis incited a tremendous controversy.  His final address as vice president of the AAAS and president of its botany section, entitled”Biological Principles and National Policy,” hammered eugenical themes, outraged listeners, and caused the AAAS  to break precedent and refuse to publish the speech in its journal, Science.2

In 1947 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.3

Ivey Foreman Lewis died in Charlottesville, Virginia on 16 March 1964.  He is buried in the University of Virginia cemetery and colubarium.4

PUBLICATIONS (incomplete list):

Lewis, Ivey F. and Lucile Walton (1958) Gall-formation on Hamamelis virginiana resulting from material injected by the aphid Hormaphis hamamelidis. Transactions of the American Microscopical Society, vol. LXXVII, no. 2, April, 1958.

Lewis, Ivey F. (1957) A history of Mountain Lake [manuscript] : address given to faculty and students at Mountain Lake Biological Station, Mountain Lake, Va., Giles Co., 1957 June 20 [Source: University of Virginia Library, Special Collections]

Lewis, Ivey F. (1954) Mountain Lake Biological Station 25th anniversary celebration [manuscript] 1954 July 17 [Source: University of Virginia Library, Special Collections]

Lewis, Ivey F. (1948) History of Biology at the University of Virginia [manuscript], 1948, [Source: University of Virginia Library, Special Collections]

Lewis, Ivey F. (1948?) Key to genera of Virginia mosses. [Source: University of Virginia Library, Special Collections]

Lewis, Ivey F. and Lucile Walton (1947) Initiation of the cone gall of witch hazel. Science 106: [pages unknown].

Lewis, Ivey F. and Hilah Bryan (1941) A new protophyte from the dry Tortugas. American Journal of Botany, v. 28 (4): 343-348.

Lewis, Ivey F. (1940) Cell reactions. The American Naturalist 74: 97-106.

Lewis, Ivey F. (1925) A new conjugate from Woods Hole. American Journal of Botany 12: 351-357.

Lewis, Ivey F. and Conway Zirkle. (1920) Cytology and systematic position of Porphyridium cruentium Naegeli. American Journal of Botany 7(8): 333-340.

Lewis, Ivey F. (1919) A tribute to president Graham of North Carolina. From : Alumni bulletin of the University of Viginia, Third ser., v. 12, no. 1 (Jan. 1919). Charlottesville, Va. : University of Virginia Press.

Lewis, Ivey F. (1917) The vegetation of Shackleford Bank. Edwards & Broughton Printing Co. State Printers, Raleigh, NC.

Lewis, Ivey F. (1910) Periodicity in Dictyota at Naples. Botanical Gazette 50(1): 59-64.

Lewis, Ivey F. (1905) Notes on the development of Phytolacca decandra L. Johns Hopkins University Circular, no. 178, May 1905, pages 35-43.

1.  Wikipedia contributors. “Nell Battle Lewis.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 Dec. 2020. Web. 20 Jan. 2021

2.  Dorr, Gregory Michael.  2000.  Assuring America’s place in the sun:  Ivey Foreman Lewis and the teaching of eugenics at the University of Virginia, 1915-1953.  The Journal of Southern History 66(2):  257-296.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2587659

3.  Personal communication, Bill Burk to McCormick.  2021 January 20 telephone call.

4.  Find A Grave Memorial # 83056299.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/83056299/ivey-foreman-lewis  accessed on 20 January 2021

Special thanks to Bill Burk, retired librarian, Couch Library, Botany Section, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.