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Charles E. Bessey papers

 Record Group
Identifier: UA-10.3.157

Scope and Contents

The papers of Charles E. Bessey are comprised of correspondence, publications and articles, and a workbook. The correspondence consists of letters written to Bessey, and letterpress books of letters Bessey wrote. The correspondence is largely professional in nature. The workbook contains notes and observations of experiments, inventory of a museum and herbarium, inventory of equipment in the botanical department, an outline, and a letter. In addition, there is a Systemic Botany notebook. The publications consist of an article about Bessey, a scientific article about germ plasm, and an 1885 realtors brief. The collection also contains articles written by Bessey on botany topics, other topics of interest to him, and reviews of books and articles.


  • Creation: 1869 - 1932


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Biographical Note

Charles E. Bessey was born May 21, 1845 in Milton, Ohio. He grew up on the family farm until his father’s death in 1863. He then taught carpentry and surveying. In 1869, he received a B.S. from Michigan Agricultural College and an honorary M.S. in 1872. In 1879 he received an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and in 1898 a LLD from Grinnell College. Bessey was an instructor of botany at the Iowa Agricultural College (now called Iowa State University) from 1870-1873. From 1874 to 1877 he was a professor of botany, zoology, and entomology. He became professor of botany in 1878 and held that position until 1884. While at ISU he established the first botanical laboratory for undergraduate study in the United States. In addition, he began an herbarium. In 1882, he became the Vice President of the College and that same year became acting President. In 1884, Bessey left ISU to become the first Dean of Agriculture at the University of Nebraska. He held that position until 1915. In addition he served as acting President from 1888 to 191 and 1909. From 1909 to 1915 he was the Dean of Deans. Bessey also became Scientist of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture.

He was married to Lucy Athearn on December 25, 1873 and they had three children. Edward and Carl Bessey became electricians. Ernst Bessey became a botanist and worked for the Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C.

Bessey died on February 25, 1915 in Lincoln, Nebraska.


0.8 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Related Archival Materials

See also Ernst A. Bessey papers, 1904-1952 (UA 17.5), at the University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

See also Bessey family papers, 1878-1968 (UA 10.3.416), at the University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

See also Charles E. Bessey papers, 1865-1915, at the University Archives & Special Collections at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska. Microfiche available at the Michigan State University Library.

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University.

Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Charles E. Bessey Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
S. Roberts
July 2003
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US