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Scientific Works of Karl Mohr

The scientific works of Charles Mohr can be summarized as being scientifically accurate but leaning toward the practical and economic aspects of botany, agriculture, and geology. In his biographical sketch, Smith (1901c) states:

From about 1878 the results of these [Mohr's] scientific investigations began to be made public in a series of articles, at first practical and economic only, afterwards more strictly scientific and specialized, but always directed toward the imparting of useful knowledge to his fellowmen. As with his collections, primarily intended to illustrate some feature of our natural resources, they grew in breadth and completeness until they became illustrative of monographs.

These interests and goals adequately sum up the scientific works of Charles Mohr. Tracy (1901) states that Mohr's first scientific paper was a lecture presented in Vienna in 1847 on the geology of the Surinam region. Like most of his peers, Mohr was interested in other aspects of the natural sciences besides forest botany, and he included mineralogy, geology, and conchology among his interests. He contributed a short paper concerned with both geology and anthropology to the 1881 Smithsonian Institution Annual Report (Mohr 1883a).

Smith (1901b) states that during the summer of 1876 Mohr examined the gold reserves of the metamorphic region of Alabama, and that the floristic notes that he took during this study were published in Berney's Hand Book. Smith further states that the collection of minerals from this trip was exhibited in Mobile in 1876 and in Atlanta in 1881, and that the collection was eventually sent to the U. S. Department of Agriculture. A report by Mohr on the economic geology of Alabama was issued in 1878.

Mohr's earliest contributions to North American botany involved collections of mosses and ferns. As mentioned previously, Mohr met the bryologist Leo Lesquereux while at Louisville, and Scribner (1893) states that Mohr "greatly assisted Lesquereux and James by furnishing material for their work on the mosses of North America." Smith (1901b, c) adds that Mohr's collection of ferns of southern Alabama was sent to Daniel C. Eaton and incorporated into his Ferns of North America. Mohr also published five short papers on bryology in the Bulletln of the Torrey Botanical Club in 1874.

Although he published no more on the subject, Mohr's interest in cryptogams must have continued throughout his life, as F. S. Earle read a paper by Mohr on the mosses of Alabama to the 1899 Columbus botanical meetings (Anonymous 1899).

Mohr's interests always leaned toward the practical side of science, and these interests brought him to perform numerous investigations for the Grange on methods of improving the soils of Alabama. These investigations included the assessment of the value of various types of wood ashes, pine straw, leaves, and cotton seed hulls as soil builders. The results of these experiments were never published. Another primary interest of Mohr's was the examination of plants introduced to North America on ships' ballast. By living in the international port of Mobile, Mohr was able to comb the ballast grounds for newly introduced species. His preliminary findings were published in the Botanical Gazette in 1878, and many detailed notations of plant introductions and dispersals are found in Plant Life of Alabama. Many plants collected by Mohr and deposited in the Mohr Herbarium are simply marked "ballast ground" and include the date of their first introduction.

Botany, however, was a recreational activity for Mohr, as his training was that of a chemist and his business was based on drugs. He combined his vocation and avocation in a number of articles in the Proceedings of the American Pharmaceutical Association, as well as in the German Pharmaceutische Rundschau. His "Medicinal Plants of Alabama" was published both in English and in German (Mohr 1890a, b). His knowledge of medicinal plants was well known, and in 1897 Mohr was appointed to the U. S. subcommission of the Pan-American Medical Congress to study the American medicinal flora (Anonymous 1897).

A quick glance at Mohr's publications indicates that his interests lay primarily in forestry and forest products. These interests led to his many popular articles published in Garden and Forest and in the Rundschau, as well as addresses to various meetings, such as the American Cotton Planters Association (Mohr 1883c). He was in charge of several natural history exhibitions at regional expositions, including the New Orleans exposition of 1884.

Mohr (1883b) published a list of the natural resources displayed at the Louisville exhibition for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad which Scribner (1893) described as "one of the few papers of its kind which possesses real scientific merit."

In 1880, Mohr was contacted by Charles Sprague Sargent to investigate the forests of the Gulf states. Although he expressed concern about receiving credit for his work (Mohr 1882a), Mohr's results were published in the ninth volume of the Tenth United States Census. This work marked the beginning of a long association with the Department of Agriculture, which culminated in the writing of a series of extensive monographs on southern trees of economic importance. One such report (Mohr 1896a) treated the southern pines and included a study on wood anatomy by another author.

"Notes on the Red Cedar" was published posthumously. Smith (1901b) reported that at the time of Mohr's death the monographs on Bald Cypress and Juniper were also in press, and that one on the oaks had been completed, but none of these papers has ever been published.

Mohr was a member of many pharmaceutical and scientific associations, and he played an active role in most of them. As enumerated by Tracy (1901), Mohr was an honorary member of the state pharmaceutical associations of both Ohio and Louisiana, and is listed as a member of the American Pharmaceutical Association from 1871 onward ( Anonymous 1885 ).

Mohr's letters indicate his participation in two revisions of the Pharmacopeia (Mohr 1890c, 1900a). As for botanical associations, Mohr was a corresponding member of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, and the Torrey Botanical Club, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is known to have presented papers to the 1891 and 1892 meetings of the latter Association (Anonymous 1891, 1892).

Mohr's most active participation, however, was in the field of forestry, and especially as a member of the American Forestry Congress. At the Cincinnati meeting in April, 1882, he presented a paper, "The Southern Pine," and was appointed to chair a committee "to report upon Forest Fires, and the Injuries to Forests by Cattle" (Anonymous 1882a). At the Montreal meeting in August, 1882, he was appointed temporary treasurer and a member of three committees, and also presented a paper (Anonymous 1882b).

Through his many activities, Mohr was able to meet and maintain contact with many of the prominent scientists of his day. He corresponded frequently with N. L. Britton, largely concerning questions of nomenclature and the identification of sedges, and these letters can be found in the archives of the New York Botanical Garden. The Smithsonian Institution Archives contain his many letters to G. R. Vasey, J. N. Rose, S. M. Tracy, and C. L. Pollard.

In letters to Smith, Mohr (1882b, c) mentioned meeting A. W. Chapman while working in Washington and meeting George Engelmann while staying with Sargent in Massachusetts. His correspondence and consultation with Chapman continued until the latter's death and is related in a biographical sketch of Chapman (Mohr 1899a). In a different letter, Mohr (1898) mentioned that Gifford Pinchot hoped to meet him, and his association with another prominent forester, George B. Sudworth, is described in an earlier publication (Mohr 1892a).


Mohr's major scientific work was Plant Life of Alabama, published July 31, 1901--just two weeks after his death. This work was produced with the assistance of the Geological Survey of Alabama and its head, Eugene Allen Smith, and represents an elaboration of the "Preliminary List" from the collections of Mohr and Smith (Mohr 1880). Letters exchanged between Mohr and Smith fail to indicate when the decision was made to begin work on a complete flora of Alabama. However, in l882, after completion of his field work for the Census, Mohr (l882d) wanted "to be left quietly at home" until he had completed "Our Alabama Flora." Four years later, Mohr ( 1886) mentioned working on the Flora, and by l889 he was ready to add the lower plants to it (Mohr l889). Concentrated work on the project was not begun until 1891, when ap

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