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John Thomas Baldwin Jr. papers

Identifier: UA 6.122

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Content Description

This collection contains materials pertaining to the professional career and personal life of Dr. John Thomas Baldwin Jr. Also included are the professional papers of Dr. Bernice Speese, a William & Mary professor and colleague of Dr. Baldwin.

Materials include articles, drawings, maps, personal and academic correspondence, media clippings and written research notes, report drafts, photography, and government documents related to Baldwin’s work with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).


  • Creation: 1911-1983

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from the Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Biographical / Historical

Dr. John Thomas Baldwin Jr. (1910-1974) received his undergraduate degree from William & Mary, and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He joined the William & Mary faculty in 1937, before leaving in 1939 to teach at the University of Michigan for two years. Dr. Baldwin returned to William & Mary in 1944, where he rose from assistant professor of botany to chairman of the biology department over the course of his career.

Dr. Baldwin specialized in cytogenetics, the study of plant chromosomes, and boxwoods. His work also focused on strophanthus sarmentosus, a plant from the same genus as the dogbane family. When he traveled to Liberia in 1947 at the behest of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a survey of the distribution, prevalence and behavior of strophanthus, it was discovered to be a natural source of cortisone. The plant was used extensively in the early manufacturing of the drug.

Dr. Baldwin traveled to four continents in the course of his studies, and working with his colleague Dr. Bernice Speese, he used the seeds and plantings from those trips to turn the campus of William & Mary into a natural laboratory. Some of the plants that remain today are among the oldest cultivated representatives of their species in the United States.

Dr. Baldwin passed away on September 3, 1974 at the age of 63.


9 Linear Feet

17 Boxes



Separated Materials

Several books were received along with the papers. Some volumes were retained and catalogued, the others were returned to the William & Mary Herbarium.

John Thomas Baldwin Jr. papers
In Progress
William & Mary Special Collections Research Center staff
2024 February 12
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository