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IA People

Thomas Huston Macbride (1848-1934), Curator of the herbarium, 1878-1895, administrator and conservationist

In 1878 Thomas H. Macbride was appointed as Assistant Professor of Natural Science by Dr. Samuel Calvin, the Professor of Natural Science at the State University of Iowa (now University of Iowa). In the fall of 1883 he became Professor of Botany and Systematic Zoology, and in 1902 he was made head of the new Department of Botany. From 1914 to 1916, Dr. Macbride served as Acting President of the university. He moved to Seattle, Washington, following his retirement in 1916, but he maintained strong connections and botanical activities in Iowa until his death in 1934.

Dr. Macbride achieved international recognition for his work in mycology. His early work reflects a wide interest in fungi, but he later focused his research efforts on the Myxomycetes (slime molds). His earliest comprehensive text on this group was The North American Slime-Moulds, published in 1899 and revised in 1922. In collaboration with George W. Martin, The Myxomycetes was published in 1934 and stood for many years as the classic reference for these organisms.

Dr. Macbride is also heralded in Iowa for his work in conservation. He joined forces with Louis H. Pammel of Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) to create Iowa’s State Parks system and enact other conservation measures in the state. Recognizing the need for students in natural history areas to be able to gain field experience, he also joined with his colleagues Samuel Calvin, Bohumil Shimek and Robert Whylie in founding Iowa Lakeside Laboratory on the shore of Lake Okoboji near Milford, Iowa.

Andrew Price (A.P.) Morgan (1836-1907), Self-taught, world renowned mycologist

Most of A.P. Morgan’s career was spent in high school education – as a mathematics teacher and school principal in and around Dayton, Ohio. He began his botanical studies while still teaching, but his 23 years of retirement on his farm in Preston, Ohio, provided the opportunity for him to collect and observe fungi. These activities led to more than 40 publications on fungi, several of which described new species. A number of his publications are provided with detailed illustrations that were done by his wife, Laura Vail Morgan.

Following his death, Mrs. Morgan donated his collections, which also contained a number of her original plates of illustrations (some of which are colored with pastels or colored pencils), to IA. The A.P. Morgan Collection then came to ISC when the IA Mycological Collection was transferred to ISC on permanent loan in 1984. The A.P. Morgan Collection continues to be housed separately from the general mycological holdings.

Bohumil Shimek (1861-1937), Curator of the herbarium, 1895-1932 and collector extraordinaire

After having earned a degree seven years earlier at the State University of Iowa, Bohumil Shimek returned to the university in 1890 as an instructor in botany. In 1895 he was named an assistant professor and curator of the herbarium. He later served as head of the Department of Botany and director of Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. Although his first degree was in Civil Engineering, he also excelled in geology, zoology, ecology, conservation, and, of course, botany. W.F. Loehwing includes Prof. Shimek in a series about University of Iowa professors; the chapter titles express this breadth of his interests and work – the Pioneer, the Engineer, the Zoologist, the Geologist, the Botanist, the Educator, the Patriot, and the Citizen.

Prof. Shimek was the most prolific collector of the flora that the state has seen. His many thousands of collections are represented among the herbarium’s holdings of vascular plants, bryophytes, lichens, fungi and slime molds. His extensive travels across the United States, to Nicaragua, and to Czechoslovakia added to the diversity of the herbarium’s holdings, but we are especially grateful for his contributions to our knowledge of Iowa’s flora through specimens he collected in every county in Iowa.

Henry Shoemaker Conard (1874-1971), “Dean of American bryologists”

Henry S. Conard became a professor of botany at Grinnell College in 1906, and there began his studies of Iowa’s bryophyte and vascular plant flora. Dr. Conard is known for his “Grinnell Key” to vascular plants, which he prepared for his students and which went through several editions – this is the first comprehensive key to Iowa’s vascular plants. He also received acclaim for his work on the water lily family (Nymphaeaceae). But Dr. Conard is even better known for his work on the bryophytes, as national publications do indeed refer to him as “the dean of American bryologists.” He established the Moss Clinic at Iowa Lakeside Lab, and his “students” there included such outstanding bryologists as Drs. Winona Welch, Eula Whitehouse, Elva Lawton and Fabius LeBlanc. Dr. Conard also contributed to A.J. Grout’s Moss Flora of North America.

After retiring from the faculty at Grinnell College in 1944, Dr. Conard spent the next 10 years as a Visiting Research Professor at the University of Iowa. During that time he determined and curated the considerable bryophyte collections of Bohumil Shimek. He also donated his personal bryophyte herbarium, containing tens of thousands of his own collections and those he received on exchange, to IA.

George Willard Martin (1886-1971), Mycologist with a special affinity for the slime molds

George W. Martin arrived at the University of Iowa in 1923 as an associate professor of botany. Although T.H. Macbride had retired several years earlier, the two started a collaboration and friendship that lasted until Dr. Macbride’s death in 1934. Together, Macbride and Martin revised Macbride’s earlier treatment of the slime molds – The Myxomycetes was published in 1934. After a further update in 1949, Martin teamed up with C.J. Alexopoulous for the 1969 version, a tome that still stands as the definitive reference for the slime molds. His work on the jelly fungi (Tremellales) was also a major contribution to mycology. In fact, he is described by D.P. Rogers: “He was the unquestioned master of the Tremellales and Myxomycetes, and his classification of the fungi, revised annually for his mycology classes and for each of five editions of Ainsworth and Bisby’s Dictionary [of the Fungi], was the nearest thing to a generally accepted classification that existed.” The many specimens of slime molds and fungi collected by Dr. Martin and his students form the core of the mycological holdings now at ISC.

Robert Folger Thorne (b. 1920), Curator of the herbarium, 1950-1962 and Iowa Flora proponent

Intensive studies of the Iowa flora moved from ISC (where Louis H. Pammel and Ada Hayden had held sway) to IA with the arrival of Dr. Robert F. Thorne in 1950. His many doctoral students were given two options: to work on a major plant family in the state or to survey the flora of one of Iowa’s eight landform regions, while master’s students filled in with county-level floristic surveys. Thus began a fervent gathering of the necessary data for a published Flora of the state. Although an invitation for Dr. Thorne to join the faculty of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden drew him away from Iowa in 1962, before the Flora could become a reality, the accumulated information and specimens remain invaluable as work toward Dr. Thorne’s dream moves forward even today. A major step toward the goal was accomplished by one of his students, Dr. Lawrence J. Eilers, who (with Dr. Dean M. Roosa) completed The Vascular Plants of Iowa: A Checklist and Natural History. With the addition of collections made by Dr. Thorne and his students, IA grew by more than 27,000 specimens during his tenure.

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