Botanist Helen Margaret Gilkey earned a master’s degree in botany from Oregon Agricultural College in 1911 and the next year enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of California at Berkeley. She was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in Botany at Berkeley when she completed her degree in 1915. She continued as a scientific illustrator at Berkeley until 1918, when she returned to OAC as an assistant professor. She was also appointed Curator of the Herbarium, a position she held for 33 years, until her retirement in 1951.
Under Gilkey’s watch, the college’s herbarium grew from 25,000 to 75,000 plant specimen. Gilkey wrote more than 40 articles and books during her academic career and was one of the world’s leading experts in underground fungi (truffles) and tubers.
In 1996, Gilkey was inducted into the Berkeley Women’s Hall of Fame.
In 2003, Sharon Rose, Willamette University Biology Professor, curated an exhibit of Gilkey’s botanical illustrations at Willamette’s Hallie Ford Museum of Art (Read full story about Sharon Rose’s research.).
The Helen M. Gilkey Papers are available to researchers in the OSU Archives.