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C. F. Millspaugh

Naturalist Charles Frederick Millspaugh (June 20, 1854-September 15, 1923) was born in Ithaca, New York. He attended Cornell University and went on to receive a medical degree in 1881 from the New York Homeopathic Medical College.

Millspaugh played a significant role in establishing botany as an important field of study at West Virginia University, although he was on the faculty for only three years. He was the first botanist to begin a systematic inventory of the flora (or plants) of West Virginia. He made several lengthy field surveys across the state, collecting and identifying plants. Through the results of this work, in 1896 he published Flora of West Virginia with Lawrence William Nuttall; the book should not be confused with the 20th century classic of the same name.

Prior to his work at WVU, Millspaugh practiced medicine for nine years. Much of his practice included the use of herbal medicines to treat illness. The knowledge he accumulated through his medical practice and his love of botany led him to publish a reference on native medicinal plants called American Medicinal Plants. The work was published in sections from 1884 to 1887. It has 180 full-page color plates and includes recommendations on how to use each species.

As a botanist with the West Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, Millspaugh also experimented with plants that had potential economic use. One such project was to attempt to grow an imported willow, the Austrian basket osier, in the hopes of developing a West Virginia willow-crafts industry. However, the climate did not prove to be suitable for the plant to thrive.

Millspaugh was at WVU from 1891 to 1893. He left to become curator of botany at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, a post he held until his death.

Written by Emily Grafton