Thomas Harper Goodspeed officially became the Director of the UC Botanical Garden in 1934 and remained so until 1957. He had been a key figure in the operation of the UC Botanical Garden throughout the 1920s, becoming Garden Curator in 1926 and overseeing the Garden’s relocation to Strawberry Canyon.
Originally drawn to the Botanical Garden because of his work attempting to trace the origin, via hybridization, of the numerous varieties of cultivated Nicotiana (tobacco and its close relatives), Goodspeed was able to continue his research as Director and maintained an almost complete collection of the species.
Over the course of his long tenure as Director, he developed significant collections of the Garden. Major early additions included the Rhododendron Dell, the New World Desert and associated cactus and succulent collections, and the California Redwood Grove (now Stephen J. Mather Redwood Grove). These were followed by the addition of the Chinese Dawn Redwoods (Metasequia) from one of the earliest expeditions to China by Berkeley paleobotanist Dr. Ralph Chaney.
Goodspeed also initiated a series of six expeditions to the Andes (carried out between 1935 and 1958). Their primary objective was to collect all species of the genus Nicotiana, with determination of their ranges. A secondary objective was collection of Andean plants in botanically unknown areas, and which led to the acquisition of a magnificent collection of South American cacti and succulents.