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The Song of Roland

Roland_Thaxter / Presents 
Historic Portsmouth #425

Let’s focus our Isles of Shoals story this week on Roland Thaxter (1858-1932) the third son of Celia and Levi Thaxter. Roland is seen here with gun and father in hand, dressed for the hunt during a trip to Florida in 1868. Shoals historian Richard Stanley recently focused his research on the life of Roland whom Celia called “a jolly sweet little pleasant creature.” (Continued below)


Nicknamed “Lony” the boy picked up a love for the natural world from both his parents. Fascinated by Charles Darwin, Roland graduated from Harvard and dedicated his career to botany. He and wife Mabel Gray Freeman of Springfield, Massachusetts had four children. As a member of the Cryptogramic Botany department at Harvard, Roland traveled to the southern tip of South America in search of rare fungi. He continued his passion for “mycology” even when taking time off from Harvard at his father’s home on Cutts Island at Kittery Point. He later bought a home nearby. Roland was especially interested in a tiny variety of fungi that infest insects, especially beetles. They measure as small as 1/16th of an inch. He sketched these tiny subjects, Richard Stanley tells us, using a 1000X power microscope. Some 3,400 of Roland Thaxter’s drawings are still part of the Harvard University collection.  (Photo courtesy of Portsmouth Athenaeum)

Roland_and_Levi Thaxter (c0 Portsmouth Athenaeum/ All rights reserved




Photos (c) Portsmouth Athenaeum
All rights reserved
as seen on


Glad to see Roland Thaxter getting some publicity. I talked to Richard Stanley about him at an ISHRA (Isle of Shoals Historical and Research Association)
meeting. Roland is internationally known as "the father of modern mycology"
and is still studied as such. He identified the fungus that caused the potato scab in Ireland and other plant diseases. Check his bio on Google, a remarkable man.
-- Mary Smith

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