Born in Newman Grove, Nebraska in 1906, Bonnie Templeton moved to Los Angeles by herself at the age of 16, where she stumbled into botany by chance. After working several odd jobs, she was hired by a hobbyist who needed help classifying and mounting specimens in his extensive collection of dried plants. What started out to be just another job to pay for food and rent, would eventually lead to her vocation.
By 1928, she had learned enough about botany to become an assistant botanist at the "California Botanical Garden" in Los Angeles. One year later, she was appointed a curator of botany at the "Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History".
However, her lack of formal education became a career impediment and so she enrolled in evening classes at the "University of Southern California", earning her BA in Botany in 1941. She continued evening classes in USC’s Graduate Program and earned a MS degree in 1947. When attempting to continue graduate studies at USC, the Head of the Botany Department told her that no woman would earn a doctorate in his department as long as he had a say in it. Undaunted, she was granted a year’s leave of absence by the museum and obtained a PhD from "Oregon State University" in 1967.
The subject of her doctoral dissertation was "Plants of the Pleistocene Epoch" (1,800,000 to 11,550 years ago). Her study of fossil plant remains at the "Page Museum - La Brea Tar Pits" revealed a climate much wetter in that area than paleontologists had believed up until then.
It appears, that Dr. Templeton often experienced the pattern of discrimination against women in the field of science. At the "Natural History Museum" officials would order books and other materials for her male colleagues, but made her pay for her own materials. Most department heads had assistants, but the museum denied her request for an aid. “Even after I earned my doctorate,” she said, “it took an entire year before anyone (at the museum) would call me doctor.”
Dr. Templeton often traveled, lecturing on horticultural subjects in the United States and abroad. One of her areas of expertise was poisonous plants and so she also served as a consultant to the "Los Angles Police Department" LAPD in cases involving poisoning.
Dr. Bonnie Templeton joined the LAGC in 1974 and served as its President from 1978 to 1980.