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Brandegee, Katharine Layne (1844-1920) | University and Jepson Herbaria Archives, University of California, Berkeley

Name: Brandegee, Katharine Layne (1844-1920)
Variant Name: Layne, Mary Katharine; Curran, Mary K.

Historical Note:

Katharine Brandegee, physician, herbarium curator at the California Academy of Sciences, and noted Californian botanist, was born Mary Katharine Layne on October 28, 1844 in western Tennessee to Marshall Bolling Layne and Mary (Morris) Layne. Her family lived in Missouri and Utah before moving to a farm near Folsom, California in 1853. In 1866 she married Hugh Curran, who passed away in 1874. After her first husband's death she attended medical school in San Francisco at the University of California, receiving her M. D. in 1878. In school she studied botany under Dr. Hans Hermann Behr and worked with Albert Kellogg, curator of the herbarium of the California Academy of Sciences.  She began collecting plants in 1882, often traveling by rail, and collected extensively in California, and also in Nevada and Baja California. After Kellogg's retirement in 1883, she was hired as the curator, and she continued to botanize throughout the state. While there she instigated the publication of the Bulletin of the California Academy of Sciences and founded the biological journal Zoe.

She married Townshend Stith (T.S.) Brandegee, a fellow botanist and surveyor who had recently received an inheritance, in San Diego on May 29, 1889 and for their honeymoon they walked back to San Francisco, collecting plants along the way. She became friends with Alice Eastwood of Denver in 1891, and took a reduction in pay so that Eastwood could be hired as co-curator of the Herbarium in 1892. Eastwood took over her position when Brandegee resigned in 1894 so that she and Townshend could move to San Diego and devote their time to botanical study.

In San Diego the Brandegee's developed a extensive herbarium, botanical library and garden. When they moved to Berkeley in 1906, they donated their herbarium and lbrary to the University of California and both volunteered in the University Herbarium. Katharine Brandegee died in Berkeley on April 3, 1920.


“American National Biography Online: Brandegee, Mary Katharine Layne Curran,”


Setchell, William Albert. 1926 Townsend Stith Brandegee and Mary Katharine [Layne] [Curran] Brandegee.  Univ. Calif. Publi. Bot. 13(9): 155-178, pl. 13-14.

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