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William Randolph Taylor
LSA Minutes


Professor William Randolph Taylor died at his residence on November 11, 1990, at the age of 94.

Professor Taylor was born on December 21, 1895 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He received the degrees of B.S. (1916), M.S. (1917) and Ph.D. in botany (1920) from the University of Pennsylvania. He served in the U.S. Army in World War I. He married Jean Falconer Grant on December 18, 1926.

Taylor was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania from 1927 to 1930. In 1930 he moved to Aim Arbor, where he joined the Department of Botany of the University of Michigan as Professor. He was also Curator of Algae of the University Herbarium

His field work in the mid-1920s involved collecting trips to the Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico as well as remote mountain ranges in British Columbia. He participated in expeditions, sponsored by Allan Hancock, to the Caribbean, Pacific Mexico, and Central and South American, including the Galapagos Islands. In 1946 he was a senior biologist in "Operation Crossroads" of the Department of Navy and conducted a botanical survey of Bikini and other Marshall islands in the South Pacific prior to and immediately after the testing of atomic bombs.

Professor Taylor's early research dealt with plant cytoenetics and cytotaxonomy, and later he turned his attention to the biology and classification of freshwater and marine algae. He saw the need to catalog plant biodiversity, especially that of the seas. He was recognized as an international authority of seaweeds, and in 1964 he was honored by the University of Michigan by being named the Henry Russel Lecturer for his life-long research.

He published 140 journal articles and several books, including Plants of Bikini (1950), Marine Algae of the Northeastern Coast of North America (second ed. 1957), and Marine Algae of the Eastern Tropical and Subtropical Coasts of the Americas (1960). In 1966 he became Professor Emeritus and maintained an active research program, continuing to travel widely, especially throughout the Caribbean. For more than 60 year.

Professor and Mrs. Taylor were summer residents of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where they had a cottage in the vicinity of the Marine Biological Laboratory on Cape Cod. Professor Taylor conducted research at the Laboratory and also taught the marine botany course for many years. He was a Lifetime Trustee of the Marine Biological Laboratory and also was a Life Trustee of the Bermuda Biological Station. He was a member of the International Phycological Society, Botanical Society of America, Linnean Society of London, American Society of Plant Taxonomists, Phycological Society of America, British Phycological Society, Association of Tropical Biology, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Association of University Professors. He was a Research Associate of the Farlow Herbarium, Harvard University.

He was the recipient of many honors, including the G.M. Smith Gold Medal in Phycology awarded by the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., for his "outstanding contribution to knowledge of marine algae of Florida, the Caribbean Sea, northwest Atlantic and tropical Pacific Oceans" and the Retzius Medal of the Royal Physiographic Society of Sweden. He received the Merit Award of the Botanical Society of America (1961) and served as Vice-President in 1956. He was a Founding Member of the Phycological Society of America, serving as their second President (1947-48). He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1948) and as a foreign member of the Royal Academy of Science and Letters of Belgium (1947) and of the Linnean Society of London (1955) as well as a corresponding member of the Academie des Sciences, Institute de France (1958).

Survivors include his wife Jean; sons William R. Taylor, Jr. and James Keith Taylor; three grandchildren; one niece and one nephew.

Michael Wynne