Biographical or Historical Information
Robert Benson Gordon was born on July 23, 1901 in Erie, Pennsylvania; he died on February 11, 1981 in West Chester, PA. Gordon attended secondary school in Southbridge, Massachusetts and then The Ohio State University, where he earned a B.S. in Applied Optics (1922), an M.S. in Botany (1928), and a Ph. D. in Botany (1931). Before returning to Ohio State for his graduate work, Gordon worked for two years (1922-24) as an optician and optometrist.
In 1924, he began his teaching career. At Enslow Junior High School (1924-26) in Huntington, West Virginia, he taught general science and geography. He was an assistant (1926-30), instructor (1930-37), and assistant professor (1937-38) at The Ohio State University. Gordon taught primarily at West Chester State College, where he was appointed Instructor of Science (1938), Head of the Department of Science (1944), and Professor Emeritus of Science (1964). During his career, he taught courses in botany, plant ecology, and biological conservation.
Gordon supplemented his college instruction with a series of assignments at natural centers, arboretums, and foundations in several states, including the Audubon Nature Center in Greenwich, Connecticut (1948-49), the New Jersey School of Conservation, Stokes State Forest (1951-52), the Longwood Foundation in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania (1968-69, 1971), and the Arboretum of the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania (1952-76). In 1930, Gordon began a long association (1930, 1932-40) with the Allegany School of Natural History located in New York State’s Allegany State Park.
Gordon made significant contributions to the field of botany and plant ecology during his career. In 1966, the Ohio Biological Survey published Gordon’s large, eight-colored map entitled Natural Vegetation of Ohio at the Time of the Earliest Land Surveys. This monumental undertaking was the first of its kind completed for any state and was followed in 1969 by an accompanying bulletin entitled The Natural Vegetation of Ohio in Pioneer Days. Gordon also produced vegetation survey maps of Indiana (1936), Allegany State Park (1937), and Cattaraugus County, New York (1940).
In 1973, West Chester State College paid tribute to Gordon by designating a 67-acre woodland plot for conservation. The area was named the Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies.
Reference: Stuckey, Ronald L. “Robert Benson Gordon.” Taxon 30.4 (Nov. 1981): 874-75.