Born in 1899 in Madison, Wisconsin, Wiggins obtained his Master's (1925) and PhD (1930) degrees at Stanford and served on the faculty of the Department of Botany (later Biological Sciences) from 1929 until his retirement in 1964. An avid collector of botanical specimens, Wiggins served as curator of the Dudley Herbarium in the 1930s and director of Stanford's Natural History Museum from 1940 to 1962. In 1980 John Rawlings and Sara Timby conducted an oral history interview with Wiggins. In the interview, he narrates his family's frequent moves throughout the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century and his botanic fieldwork expeditions in Baja California, the Arctic, and South America. Of special interest is his description of his time in Ecuador as part of the Mision de Cinchona, a U.S. government effort during World War II to secure supplies of quinine-producing plants from South America in order to protect troops fighting in malaria-prone areas. The Ira L. Wiggins Papers (SC0177), which are available in Stanford's University Archives & Special Collections, contain correspondence with prominent botanists and reports and notes from his field trips.
In the interview excerpts below, Wiggins tells the story of meeting Stanford president Ray Lyman Wilbur for the first time and describes his work in Ecuador in 1944.
View one of Wiggins's hand-drawn maps from the Mision de Cinchona expedition.