He received his Bachelor from University of California, Los Angeles in 1933 and his Doctor of Philosophy in botany from University of California, Berkeley in 1940.
He taught botany at various universities, and was the first botanist to comprehensively document the alpine flora of the high Sierra Nevada. Sharsmith was inspired by the works of naturalist John Muir and became interested in the outdoors and nature. He dropped out of school at 14, but became inspired enough to finish his high school and college education.
Sharsmith enrolled in the Yosemite School of Field Natural History in 1930 then was hired as a seasonal Ranger-Naturalist in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park the following year.
Sharsmith would work each summer as a Ranger-Naturalist and spend the rest of the year teaching or performing herbarium research. He was said to have explored nearly every "nook and cranny" of Yosemite"s High Sierra On his opinion of teaching he said, "people are not interested in facts.
The greater appeal is to the heart." On nature walks, he would often kneel down and talk about a flower. One of his favorite flowers was Raggedy Aster (Aster integrifolius).
When asked what he would do if he only had a day to see Yosemite he replied, "I"d sit by the Merced River and cry." The rest of the year he taught or researched at various schools: University of Minnesota, Stanford University, and San Jose State University.
Sharsmith was Professor of Botany at San Jose State from 1950 to 1973. Besides interpreting for visitors, Sharsmith did basic research on the alpine meadows of the High Sierra, gathering thousands of herbarium samples and publishing several research papers. His interests included botany, zoology, geology, classical music, Shakespeare, and singing opera.
Sharsmith"s wife Helen was a biologist in her own right.
Sharsmith retired from the National Park Service in 1993 at 90, the oldest active Net Promoter Score park ranger in history. Sharsmith died 1994 in his home at San Jose, California.
Sharsmith Herbarium, San José State University. Dedicated 1977 Sharsmith Peak, informal name for Peak 12002 in Yosemite National Park.
Proposed official name.