Biography of Eduardo Quisumbing, Famed Filipino Botanist

The expert in medicinal plants authored dozens of scientific articles

Portrait of Eduardo Quisumbing in the National Museum of Natural History, Manila, Philippines

Judgefloro/Wikimedia Commons/CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication

Eduardo Quisumbing (Nov. 24, 1895–Aug. 23, 1986) was a Filipino botanist and a noted expert in the medicinal plants of the Philippines. He was an author of more than 129 scientific articles, many on orchids. Quisumbing served as the director of the National Museum of the Philippines, where he oversaw the rebuilding of the herbarium, which was completely destroyed during World War II. The plant Saccolabium quisumbingii is named for him.

Fast Facts: Eduardo Quisumbing

  • Known For: Filipino botanist and a noted expert in the medicinal plants of the Philippines. The plant Saccolabium quisumbingii is named for him.
  • Born: Nov. 24, 1895, Santa Cruz, Laguna, Philippines
  • Parents: Honorato de los R. Quisumbing, Ciriaca F. Arguelles-Quisumbing
  • Died: Aug. 23, 1986, Quezon City, Philippines
  • Education: University of the Philippines Los Baños (BSA, 1918), University of the Philippines Los Baños (MS, 1921), University of Chicago (Ph.D., 1923)
  • Published Works: “Teratology of Philippine Orchids,” “The identity of Anota Violacea and Rhynchostylis Retus,” “New or Noteworthy Philippine Orchids,” “Philippine Piperaceae,” "Medicinal plants in the Philippines"
  • Awards and Honors: Distinguished Service Star for Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Systematic Botany, Diploma of Merit on Orchidology, Fellow Gold Medal from the Malaysian Orchid Society, PhilAAS Most Outstanding Award, National Scientist of the Philippines
  • Spouse: Basilisa Lim-Quisumbing
  • Children: Honorato Lim Quisumbing, Lourdes L. Quisumbing-Roxas, Eduardo L. Quisumbing, Jr.

Early Years and Education

Quisumbing was born on Nov. 24, 1895 in Santa Cruz, Laguna, the Philippines. His parents were Honorato de los R. Quisumbing and Ciriaca F. Arguelles-Quisumbing.

Quisumbing earned his BSA in biology from the University of the Philippines Los Baños in 1918 and his Master of Science in botany at the same university in 1921. He also earned a Ph.D. at University of Chicago (in Plant Taxonomy, Systematics and Morphology) in 1923.

Career

From 1920 to 1926, Quisumbing was attached to the College of Agriculture at the University of the Philippines and from 1926 to 1928 at the University of California. He was appointed systematic botanist in 1928. Beginning in February 1934, he served as acting chief of the Natural Museum Division of the Bureau of Science in Manila. He was later named director of the National Museum, a position he held until retiring in 1961.

Quisumbing was author of numerous taxonomic and morphological papers, many of which deal with orchids, such as "Medicinal plants in the Philippines." Some of his other published works include “Teratology of Philippine Orchids,” “The identity of Anota Violacea and Rhynchostylis Retus,” “New or Noteworthy Philippine Orchids,” and “Philippine Piperaceae.”

He was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Star (1954) for outstanding contribution to the field of systematic botany, Diploma of Merit on Orchidology and Fellow Gold Medal from the Malaysian Orchid Society (1966), the Gold Medal from American Orchid Society, and the 1975 PhilAAS Most Outstanding Award.

Death and Legacy

Quisumbing died on Aug. 23, 1986, in Quezon City, the Philippines. He may be the most famous botanist from the Philippines, particularly with regard to his study on orchids. His publications and papers are still sold on sites such as Amazon. And his writings on orchids of the Philippines are still available at college libraries throughout the U.S.

The orchid named after Quisumbing is a beautiful plant with white petals and a pink pistil. It's widely available in the United States.

One orchid shop, Andy's Orchids located in Encinitas, California, describes the flower as a miniature epiphyte similar to Tuberolabium kotoense but slightly larger with more elongated leaves and longer spikes. It has a Phalaenopsis-like growth habit with thick leathery pointed 5-inch leaves. Numerous heavy pendulous 7-inch spikes emerge from between the leaves. Its buds appear from sheathed nodes on the thickened spikes producing a dense spray of crystalline white 1/2-inch flowers with red and purple markings on the white lip. The flower is very fragrant and easy to grow, says the shop's website.

So Quisumbing's legacy lives on in the beautiful orchids and other flowers of the Philippines that he spent his life cultivating, protecting, and describing for the world to learn about and enjoy.

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