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James Barkley Pollock
The Michigan Alumnus 27


James Barkley Pollock

An Appreciation by H. H. Bartlett, Professor of Botany

 in Orangeville, Illinois, November 10, 1863, and died in
 Ann Arbor, Michigan, June 29, 1934. His father, Thomas 
Pollock (b. Scioto County, Ohio, May 6, 1815, d. Orange
ville, Illinois, June 17, 1884), was an Illinois pioneer. He 
settled in Buckeye Township, Stephenson County, in 1840 
and at first experienced all the hardships of the home
steaders, but later became well-to-do. His wife, Elizabeth
 Van Meter, was a direct descendant of John Van Meter 1st, 
 of Berkeley, Virginia, who, with his brother Isaac, received 
through Governor Gooch a Crown grant 
of 40,000 acres of land in Wapatonica
 Valley (south branch of the Potomac), 
 which had been explored by their 
father, Jan van Meteren, son of the 
Dutch immigrant, Kryn Jansen van 
Meteren of New Jersey and New York. 
In the Van Meter line of descent were
 Joseph, grandson of John, who held a
 commission in Washington's army (on
 his share of the old Crown grant Fort
 Van Meter was located) and Morgan, 
a son of Joseph, who was the founder
 of Morgantown, Ohio. 

Pollock attended the Illinois State 
Normal University in 1891, where he
 was a fellow student and friend of the 
late Dean John R. Effinger. He then 
entered the University of Wisconsin, 
 and graduated as B.S. in 1893. After 
a year of teaching in the high school at
 Austin, Illinois, he became Assistant in
 Botany at Michigan in 1895, but re
turned to the University of Wisconsin and took the degree
 M.S. in 1896. Again at the University of Michigan in
1897, he took the Sc.D. and then went abroad for a year
 of study under Professor Wilhelm Pfeffer, the famous 
plant physiologist, at the University of Leipzig. 

Pollock’s subsequent career was that of gradual academic advancement at the University of Michigan. He 
was Instructor from 1898 to 1906, Assistant Professor and
 Associate Professor 1906-22, Exchange Professor and Re
search Professor at the University of Hawaii, 1922-24, 
 Professor 1925-32, and Professor Emeritus 1932-34. He 
had been up to the time of his retirement the devoted 
teacher of more college generations than any other member of the botanical staff. He always participated in the
 teaching of the large freshman course (as it is a tradition
 in the Michigan department for the older members of the
 staff to do) and for many years had given a successful 
intermediate course that attracted many students—his 
course on microbiology in its application to soils, water 
supplies, industrial processes, and sanitation. This course
satisfied the need of many students for elementary training 
in the non-medical aspects of bacteriology, but also dealt 
largely with blue-green algae, molds, and yeasts, varying 
in content from year to year, according to the needs of the 
students and the changing interests of the instructor. This 
course was Pollock's distinctive and highly valued contri
bution to the teaching strength of the department. 

Pollock's research interests were at first in physiology
(his thesis was entitled "The Mechanism of Root Curva
ture" but gradually shifted, in accordance with the trend
 of his teaching, to studies of fungi and algae. It was an 
investigation of the blue-green algae of a little lake near
 Ann Arbor where he spent a vacation period with his fam
ily in 1918 that laid the foundation for his later research
 on the significance of algae in the formation of coral reefs. He devoted sev
eral weeks to the study of the curious 
biscuit-shaped calcareous concretions
 that are so largely instrumental in the 
deposition of marl at several localities 
in southern Michigan. These concre
tions are formed by blue-green algae 
and so long as the organisms that produce them are alive they have a coral
loid appearance, and are very similar
 superficially to algal concretions that 
occur in the very oldest fossiliferous
 rocks. Furthermore, when the organ
isms die, some of the concretions in the
 shallower water are broken up by wave 
action and produce a structureless calcareous mud that settles in the deeper 
water and forms a matrix in which 
other unbroken concretions become 
embedded. The whole process is re
markably suggestive of the processes
 by which algae of the red group, far 
higher in the evolutionary scale than the blue-greens, participate in the building of coral reef and coral sand deposits 
on tropical and subtropical sea coasts.

It was therefore with his mind prepared to work on
 coral-reef problems that Dr. Pollock went to the Univer
sity of Hawaii as Exchange Professor, for 1922-23. He
 remained in Honolulu a second year on sabbatical leave, 
 as Research Professor at the University of Hawaii, and 
in these two years enjoyed the most productive part of 
his career. 

A summary of his work on coral reefs was presented for 
him at the Third Pan-Pacific Science Congress at Tokyo 
in 1926 and published in the "Proceedings." This was 
followed by full publication as Bulletin 55 of the Bishop 
Museum of Honolulu, in 1928, and by a paper on the 
origin of Pearl Harbor, the naval base near Honolulu, in
 1929. The conclusions regarding the geological history of 
Pearl Harbor depended upon his interpretation of the 
algal and coral deposits in excavations made by the Do
heny oil interests for the storage of oil. Professor Herbert E. Gregory, Director of the Bishop Museum, after he had
 critically read and edited "Fringing and Fossil Coral Reefs
 of Oahu," wrote to Dr. Pollock, "I consider the paper the
 most enlightening contribution to the geology of Oahu 
that has been made." Other students of coral-reef prob
lems commented on this paper with equal enthusiasm. Regret has been expressed that Pollock's publications on 
Oahu were not accompanied by specific identifications of
 the coralline algae, the systematic study of which was cut 
short by his illness, but it is hoped that this deficiency may
 yet be made up by his colleague, Dr. W. R. Taylor. 

In 1923 the U. S. Navy assigned the minesweepers, 
 Whippoorwill and Tanager, to the duty of conveying a
 scientific expedition to Johnston and Wake Islands, lying
 west of the Hawaiian group, the latter well toward Guam. 
 The enterprise had the cooperation of the Bureau of Bio
logical Survey, U. S. Department of Agriculture, and the 
Bishop Museum of Honolulu. Dr. Pollock was appointed 
botanist, and readers of THE MICHIGAN ALUMNUS will
 remember his own interesting account of the expedition in 
the number of November 1, 1923. He found a most meager 
land flora, which included, however, a problematic species
 of Pisonia, on Wake Island, the study of which involved 
him in a systematic revision of all the Oceanic and Asiatic
 species of Pisonia. This work on Pisonia unfortunately 
has not resulted in publication because of a series of minor
 cerebral hemorrhages which began in 1928 and followed
 so closely as hardly to allow for recuperation to working 
strength in the intervals between. The strokes especially 
affected his vision and made work during the last three 
years very laborious and nerve-racking, but he continued
 to go to the laboratory until a few days before his death. 

Dr. Pollock was not an active participant in the 
affairs of professional societies, with the single ex
ception of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and 
Letters. This, as a local enterprise, received his full
 cooperation and support for many years. He served as
 Secretary and Editor from 1901 to 1903 and was Presi
dent in 1906-7. 
He was a member of the Unitarian Church; the basis of 
his adherence to it and of his loyalty to its ideals were
 admirably expressed by his colleague, Professor John F. 
 Shepard, in an address at his funeral. The services were
 conducted by the Reverend Henry Tatlock at the Uni
tarian Church of Ann Arbor, endeared to his family by 
long association, for his wife's grandfather, John Allen, 
 was one of those whose interest had made the building of
 the church possible. Its construction was finished in 1882
 during the pastorate of the Reverend J. T. Sunderland, 
 who, in spite of his advanced age, was able to speak at 
Dr. Pollock's funeral.

Dr. Pollock was married June 24, 1902, to Ida Belle
 Allen, daughter of John Allen, of Ann Arbor. She died
 October 24, 1906, and was the mother of Florence Allen
 Pollock, A.B. 1926, LL.B. 1928 (Michigan) of the Ann
 Arbor Bar. His second marriage, September 22, 1910, 
was to Rhoda Selleck, daughter of Henry Selleck, lawyer, 
 of Bay City. She, and two daughters, Cathelia Elizabeth, 
 '32ed, and Nina Ruth, student in the School of Architecture, survive him.