At a glance

Falconer Biology Library

Our history

Jordan Hall


Falconer Biology Library was established in 1926 as the Library of the School of Biological Sciences when the school was organized. In September, 1949, when the Biological Sciences Division of Stanford University Libraries was created, the library’s name was changed to the Biological Sciences Library.

When the library was established in 1926, it was located in Jordan Hall, the original Zoology Building. This building had a 60-foot-high vestibule which was designed to display skeletons of large prehistoric animals, but because the space was needed for the library, the skeletons were never displayed there.



Frederic M. Falconer came to Stanford University in 1938, as the Assistant Librarian in the School of Biological Sciences. A native of Portland, Oregon, he came to Stanford from the Scripps Institution in Southern California for a temporary position, but stayed for 21 years, serving as the Chief Biological Sciences Librarian for the last ten years. Under Mr. Falconer’s direction, the library progressed from a loose collection of books to a well-organized library.

Following Mr. Falconer’s death in March, 1959, at the age of 46, the library was renamed the Frederic M. Falconer Biology Library on July 16, 1959. An endowed fund established in memory of Mr. Falconer supports the library’s collection development program. His wife Edith was also a longtime employee of the libraries at Stanford.

The library remained in Jordan Hall for 41 years, and although there were plans for a new biology library as early as 1960, it was not until the summer of 1967 that the library moved from Jordan Hall to its present location on the third floor of Herrin Hall. The mezzanine was added in 1980.

Falconer Library Entrance


Throughout Stanford’s history, there have been numerous libraries in the life sciences in addition to the three that survive today: Falconer Biology Library, the Miller Library at Hopkins Marine Station, and Lane Medical Library.  A few of the libraries that no longer exist are described below.

The Anatomy Library was established around 1910 and it was located in the Anatomy Building (near the intersection of Roth Way and Campus Drive West).  By 1950, its collection had grown to nearly 18,000 volumes.  The Anatomy Library never had its own librarian, and Clara Manson of Lane Medical Library was among several people who selected books and organized the collection.  The library was still active in 1960, but sometime later it was merged with Lane Library.

It is not known when the Bacteriology Library was established.  Charles E. Clifton reported that when he arrived at Stanford as a new faculty member in 1929, the library already existed.  In 1955, the name of the library was changed to the Medical Microbiology Library when the name of the Department of Bacteriology changed to the Department of Medical Microbiology.  Like the Anatomy Library, the Medical Microbiology Library was still active in 1960, but sometime later it was merged with Lane Medical Library.

The Barbara Jordan Library of Birds was established around 1900, when David Starr Jordan donated a collection of books on birds in memory of his daughter, who had died of scarlet fever at the age of nine.  The library, along with bird specimens, was maintained for some time in a room in the Department of Biology.

Dudley Herbarium Library

The Dudley Herbarium Library was established in 1891 when Professor William Russell Dudley brought his personal library to the herbarium. In 1910 he donated the collection to the university and the library continued to grow through purchases by the university and through donations. Originally, the Department of Systematic Botany, the herbarium, and the library were located in the Ship Building. Around 1897-98, the Department of Systematic Botany merged with the Department of Botany, and it seems that at that time the library joined the University Library system. The herbarium and library later moved to the Physiology Building, and in 1925, the library moved to the second floor of the Natural History Museum, which occupied the south wing of the Stanford Museum.


In 1945, Hermann Knoche donated his collection of 36,000 items to the library.  The collection included old and rare works in systematic botany and the reprint collection of Adolf Engler, the well-known plant taxonomist.  The reprint collection comprised approximately 30,000 items.  Gilbert T. Benson was another important donor.  The library never had a librarian, but Professor Ira L. Wiggins and other faculty members ensured that the library was maintained.

By 1975, the Dudley Herbarium Library had grown to more than 16,000 items.  In 1974, the Trustees approved a plan to transfer the 850,000-specimen Dudley Herbarium, along with Stanford’s other systematic biology collections, to the California Academy of Sciences (link) in San Francisco.  The transfer, officially a long-term loan, was completed in 1975.  In 1976, the library was closed and most of its collection was transferred (also via long-term loan) to the Academy.  Rare and valuable items were transferred to Special Collections, and a significant number of items were transferred to Falconer Biology Library.  At that time, Falconer Library’s shelving was approaching capacity, and in 1980, the Mezzanine shelving area was added in part to accommodate the collections transferred from closed libraries.

The Natural History Museum Library was established around 1891 with David Starr Jordan’s gift of his personal library, approximately 140 volumes, to the university.  Reflecting Dr. Jordan’s interests, the library was devoted primarily to zoology, principally to ichthyology.  Until 1900, it was maintained in the Department of Zoology, which was located in the Inner Quad.   Around 1901, it moved to Jordan Hall, and in 1925, it relocated to the Natural History Museum, located in the south wing of the Stanford Museum.  By 1960, the collection grew to 602 bound volumes and large number of reprints.  Probably in 1962, when the Natural History Museum became the Department of Systematic Biology, the name of the library was changed to the Systematic Biology Library.

Like the Dudley Herbarium Library, the Systematic Biology Library was closed in 1976, after Stanford’s systematic biology collections were transferred to California Academy of Sciences on long-term loan.  Much of the library’s collection was transferred to the Academy, while rare and valuable items were transferred to Special Collections and a few items were transferred to Falconer Biology Library.

It isn’t known when the Physical Education for Women Library was established.  It started as a small collection of books for reading and reference in the Women’s Gymnasium.  Probably around 1949, the library became one of the collections in the Biological Sciences Division of Stanford University Libraries.  The library continued to grow through gifts and requests from faculty in Physical Education, and by 1960, the library had a collection of over 2,000 items.  When the library was closed some time after 1960, most items in collection were transferred to Lane Medical Library.


Falconer Library Interior Falconer Library Interior