E. Lucy Braun was born in 1889 in Cincinnati and she lived in Cincinnati for the remainder of her life. She began pressing flowers while in high school and collected an extensive herbarium that now resides in the National Museum in Washington D.C. Her areas of study were geology and botany, although it was only botany in which she earned her PhD. She became the second woman to earn a PhD from the University of Cincinnati. (Her sister Annette Braun was the first and earned hers in entomology.) Lucy is best known for her pioneering work in plant ecology and for her advocacy of natural area conservation, particularly in her home state.
Braun taught ecology at the University of Cincinnati. After retiring she focused on her research and conducted extensive field studies with Annette. They purchased a car in 1930 and used it to travel around the East Coast, studying the environment. Lucy took hundreds of photographs of the natural flora. These field studies mainly focused on the flora of the Appalachian Mountains. She compared the flora in particular areas with the flora from a century earlier. She influenced the process by which regional changes in flora were analyzed over time. Lucy and her sister encountered moonshiners during their field studies, although they never turned anyone in, and became friends with the locals in order to explore the forests. They set up a laboratory and experimental garden at their shared home; neither was ever married.
Over her career, Lucy Braun wrote four books and 180 articles published in over twenty journals. Her most Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America, which was published in 1950. Francis Fosberg said of her book "one can only say that it is a definitive work, and that it has reached a level of excellence seldom or never before attained in American ecology or vegetation science, at least in any work of comparable importance." Braun carried out research in vascular plant floristics and deciduous forests. She founded the Wildflower Preservation Society of North America. As a professor, she had thirteen MA students and one PhD student, nine of which were women (the mentorship of graduate students was uncommon for female professors at the time.)
An Annotated Catalog of Spermatophytes (1943)
Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America (1950)
The Phytogeography of Unglaciated Eastern United States and Its Interpretation (1955)
The Woody Plants of Ohio and The Monocotyledoneae: Cat-tails to Orchids (1961)
Lucy Braun was Vice President and later President of the Ecological Society of America, both firsts for a woman. The Braun Award for Excellence in Ecology, is awarded yearly by the Society. She was the president of the Ohio Academy of Science and inducted to the Ohio Conservation Hall of Fame, again the first woman in both cases. In 1952, she was awarded the Mary Soper Pope medal in Botany. In 1956, she was awarded the Certificate of Merit by the Botanical Society of America and was declared one of the fifty most outstanding botanists.