James A. Duke

Leaders in Alternative and Sustainable Agriculture: Oral History Interview Series

Dr. James A. Duke
Agricultural Research Service, USDA.
Beltsville, Maryland

Interview by Jane Gates with James A. Duke.
Beltsville, Md. : National Agricultural Library, 1988.


Dr. James A. Duke is a lecturer, author, plant explorer and former USDA botanist with the Agricultural Research Service. He created the groundbreaking Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases at the USDA as well as publishing numerous books such as the Handbook of Legumes of World Economic Importance. Dr. Duke is also famed as an expert on herbs and alternative crop plants, penning titles such as the CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants, and many others.

Access the video in segments from the video menu below. You may watch each segment consecutively to view the full interview. The title for each segment provides a brief description of the topics discussed.

The segments in the Questions section are drawn from the full interview. They duplicate video segments from the menu. These are not verbatim questions asked by the interviewer, but rather topics addressed by Dr. Duke during the course of his interview. We hope that this will be an informative and interesting way to view the conversation.

Video lengths in minutes are approximate.

Video Menu

1. Introduction, music and early life [11 minutes]

2. Early botanical interests and early memories [11 minutes]

3. Memories, early work, music and high school [10 minutes]

4. College, military service and post graduate work [14 minutes]

5. Work in the botany of Latin America [8 minutes]

6. Medicinal plants and publications [8 minutes]

7. Dr. Duke’s farm and herb garden – tobacco, lobelia, may apple and sweet annie [11 minutes]

8. Photopheresis, ginseng and culinary herb farming [11 minutes]

9. Farming practices, evening primrose, thoughts on the future and video of the farm [11 minutes]

Watch All Nine Parts In Succession


1. When did you have pet goats? [2 minutes]

2. What was the focus of your ethnobotanical research in Panama? [4 minutes]

3. What was the USDA Medicinal Plant Resources Laboratory? [3 minutes]

4. What is photopheresis? [5 minutes]

National Agricultural Library Cataloging Record

Author: Jane Potter Gates; National Agricultural Library (U.S.).; Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (U.S.); National Agricultural Library (U.S.). Special Collections.
Title: Oral history interview of Dr. James A. Duke [videorecording].
Publisher: Beltsville, Md. : U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library, 1988.
Series: AFSIC oral history interview series
Subjects: Duke, James A., 1929- --Biography.
Description: Original format: 1 videocassette (1 hr., 58 min. min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.
Note(s): Interview sponsored by Special Collections section and the Alternative Farming Systems Information Center. Written by A. Fusonie and Jane Gates; produced by Ron Young. Interviewer, Jane Gates.
NAL Call Number: Videocassette no.629

The National Agricultural Library does not verify the accuracy of the accounts described herein by participants in an Oral History Project. These oral histories are expressions of the views, memories and opinions of the interviewee. They do not represent the policy, views or official history of the United States Department of Agriculture or the National Agricultural Library.