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Bray: William Bray Biography

William Bray Biography

The following biography of William Bray was compiled and written by

Ranger School and ESF Alumni Arnie Lanckton.


WILLIAM L. BRAY (1865-1953)



William L. Bray was born on a farm near Burnside, IL, 19 September 1865, the son of William and Martha Ann Foster Bray.  On 28 December 1898 he married Alice Weston of Syracuse NY having met her in Berlin, Germany.  They had three children, Alice, Robert and Florence.  He died at Syracuse, NY, on 25 May 1953 at the age of 88.

1883-85, Kirkville (Missouri) Normal School, Kirkville, MO. 

1885-89, He taught in Iowa and then went to Missouri where he was a principal of schools for four years.  He became enthusiastic about natural History especially zoology.  The following years he was general secretary of the YMCA at Fresno, CA.  He returned to Burnside, IL, in 1892, where he spent most of the summer identifying prairie plants. His adeptness in the use of keys was important in his choice of botany.  His early professional life in the botanical field was lauded by Dr. John M. Coulter, under whom he received all of his degrees.



1889-91, Cornell University

1893, Indiana and majored in botany (A.B.)

1894, Lake Forest (Illinois), (M.A.). Thesis topic, “Monograph on Amaranthaceae” with Edwin Uline).  He was also an instructor and adjunct professor of botany from 1894-98.

1898, University of Chicago (Ph.D.) Thesis topic, “Vegetation of western Texas”.  


Professional Employment

1895 -97, Assistant professor of biology, Lake Forest University.

1896–97, He studied under Heinrich Gustav Adolf Engler at the Royal Botanical Garden in Berlin.

1897-98, Instructor in botany, at the University of Texas.

1898-01, Assistant Professor, at the University of Texas.

1899-09, A collaborator with the United States Forest Service.   

1902-05, Associate Professor, at the University of Texas

1905-07, Professor at the University of Texas.

1907-11, Professor of Biology at Syracuse University, teaching the university’s first course in forestry. While as a botanist at Syracuse University, he had particular interest in forest ecology and dendrology.  In 1911 he organized the Agricultural Division at the University.

1911-12, Acting Dean of the New York’s second College of Forestry later the College of Environment Science and Forestry at Syracuse University. He was the Acting Dean of the College of Forestry at Syracuse University at its founding in 1911 and served in that capacity for several months. He was responsible for the College's formation and organization. He developed the College's spirit and ideals, and became known as "Daddy" Bray. He established the reputation of the second College of Forestry after the College’s debacle at Cornell University during the 1898 to 1903.  Bray Hall on the College’s campus was named in his honor.

1912-1918, Dean of Syracuse University's College of Liberal Arts. He continued to teach at the College of Forestry’s summer camp on Cranberry Lake, NY for several years.

1918- 1943, Dean of the graduate school of Syracuse University.

1903-04, Chief of the Division of Forestry. Texas World Fair Commissioner


Selected Publications

Botanische Jahrbücher (1897)

“Sonoran Desert flora with that of arid Chile and Argentina” (1898)

“Forest Resources of Texas,” 1904

"The Flora of Texas as a Field for Botanical Study" (1900)

"Some Practical Phases of the Study of Botany" (1900).

"The Ecological Relations of the Vegetation of Western Texas" (1901)

“Forest Resources of Texas” (1904)

“The Timber of the Edwards Plateau of Texas” (1904),

"Vegetation of the Sotol Country in Texas" (1905)

“Distribution and Adaptation of the Vegetation of Texas” (1906)

“The Mistletoe Pest in the Southwest” (1910)

"Development of Vegetation in New York State”

He also published many articles on plant and tree distribution and adaptation.



A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; member of Biotical Society of America; Ecological Society of America; New York Academy of Sciences, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi and Phi Kappa Phi.

In 1915, Dr. Bray became one of the founding members--along with Raphael Zon and James W. Tourney- -of the Ecological Society of America. In 1950, the 1917 "activist wing" of that Society formed today's “The Nature Conservancy”, conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends.



Awarded a Grand Prix for a tree specimens exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, an international event at St. Louis, MO, 1904