Biography of Eduardo Quisumbing, Famed Filipino Botanist

Portrait of Eduardo Quisumbing

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Eduardo Quisumbing (November 24, 1895–August 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: Quisumbing was a Filipino botanist and a noted expert in the medicinal plants of the Philippines. The plant Saccolabium quisumbingii is named for him.
  • Born: November 24, 1895 in Santa Cruz, Laguna, Philippines
  • Parents: Honorato de los R. Quisumbing, Ciriaca F. Arguelles-Quisumbing
  • Died: August 23, 1986 in 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 November 24, 1895, in Santa Cruz, Laguna, 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 the University of Chicago (in Plant Taxonomy, Systematics and Morphology) in 1923.


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 the 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 August 23, 1986, in Quezon City, 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, Saccolabium quisumbingii—also known as Tuberolabium quisumbingii—is a beautiful plant that is widely available in the United States. Like other orchids in the genus Tuberolabium kotoense, this orchid produces small but plentiful bright purplish/pink-and-white flowers and grows in the mountains of the Phillippines.

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