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Richard Evans Schultes

Richard Evans Schultes (January 12, 1915 – April 10, 2001) may be considered the father of modern ethnobotany, not only in his devotion to the study of native uses of entheogenic or hallucinogenic plants, especially in the Amazon, in his lifelong collaborations with chemists, but also in his charismatic influence as an educator at Harvard University on a number of field botanists who went on to write popular books and assume influential positions in museums, botanical gardens, etc. Dr. Schultes received numerous awards and decorations including the gold medal from the Linnean Society of London in 1992, considered a top honor in botany.



A Harvard student himself from 1934 to 1941, Schultes studied with Oakes Ames, orchidologist and director of the Harvard Botanical Museum, who influenced his student research with the ritual use of peyote cactus among the Kiowa of Oklahoma, as well as his discovery of the lost identity of the Mexican hallucinogenic plants teonanácatl (various mushrooms belonging to the Psilocybe genus) and ololiuqui (a morning glory species) in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The first of many prolonged trips to the Upper Amazon began in 1941 as a Harvard research associate, and included a search for wild disease-resistant rubber species in an effort to free the United States from dependence on Southeast Asian rubber plantations which had become unavailable due to Japanese occupation in World War II. Schultes' botanical fieldwork among Native American communities led him to be one of the first to alert the world about destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the disappearance of its native people. He collected over 24,000 herbarium specimens and published numerous ethnobotanical discoveries including the source of the dart poison known as curare, now commonly employed as a muscle relaxant during surgery.

Schultes became curator of Harvard's Oakes Ames Orchid Herbarium in 1953, curator of economic botany in 1958, and professor of biology in 1970. His ever-popular undergraduate course on Economic Botany was noted for his Victorian demeanor, lectures delivered while wearing a white lab coat, insistence on memorization of systematic botanical names, films depicting native ritual use of plant inebriants, blow pipe demonstrations, and hands-on labs (plant sources of grain, paper, caffeine, dyes, medicines, tropical fruits). His composed and kindly persona combined with expressive eye gestures masked his exotic experience and helped capture the imagination of the many students he inspired.

Selected works

  • Schultes, Richard Evans; and Siri von Reis (eds.) (1995). Ethnobotany: Evolution of a Discipline. Portland, Or.: Dioscorides Press. ISBN 0-931146-28-3. 
  • Schultes, Richard Evans; and Robert F. Raffauf (1992). Vine of the Soul: Medicine Men, Their Plants and Rituals in the Colombian Amazonia. Oracle, Ariz.: Synergetic Press. ISBN 0-907791-24-7. 
  • Schultes, Richard Evans; and William A. Davis, with Hillel Burger (1982). The Glass Flowers at Harvard. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0-525-93250-X. 
  • Schultes, Richard Evans; and Robert F. Raffauf (1990). The Healing Forest: Medicinal and Toxic Plants of the Northwest Amazonia. Portland, Or.: Dioscorides Press. ISBN 0-931146-14-3. 
  • Schultes, Richard Evans (1988). Where the Gods Reign: Plants and Peoples of the Colombian Amazon. Oracle, Ariz.: Synergetic Press. ISBN 0-907791-13-1. 
  • Schultes, Richard Evans; and Albert Hofmann (1980). The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens, 2nd ed., Springfield, Ill.: Thomas. ISBN 0-398-03863-5. 
  • Schultes, Richard Evans; and Albert Hofmann (1979). Plants of the Gods: Origins of Hallucinogenic Use. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-056089-7. 
  • Schultes, Richard Evans (1976). Hallucinogenic Plants, illus. Elmer W. Smith, New York: Golden Press. ISBN 0-307-24362-1. 


  • "You are not going back to the States, you are going right down into the Amazon and try to get the Indians to tap wild rubber. The Japanese have taken over all of Southeast Asia -- we have no more rubber, which is essential, especially for the heavy military planes."
  • "You have a feeling of achievement when you discover a new plant, even a plant that has no use."

See also

References and external links

  • The Richard E. Schultes Research Award'
  • New York Times obituary
  • Harvard Gazette
  • Harvard Square Library
  • Davis, Wade (1997). One River: Science, Adventure and Hallucinogenics in the Amazon Basin. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-81812-4. 
  • A Tribute to Richard Schultes
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Richard_Evans_Schultes". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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