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College of Arts and Sciences|Diamond Jubilee -- 75th Anniversary

Louis O. Williams*

AB, Master of Science - 1933 - Botany

Louis Williams, a native of Jackson, Wyoming, earned his bachelor's and master's degrees under UW botanist Aven Nelson. His doctoral studies in plant systematics were at Washington University and the Missouri Botanical Garden.

He served as a research assistant at the Ames Orchid Herbarium of Harvard University for seven years, during which he edited the American Orchid Society Bulletin. His successful editorship was responsible for increasing the Society's membership from two hundred to three thousand. Orchids, American floristics, and useful plants were his main interest, and he published nearly 300 scientific articles dealing with these areas. Williams spent the WWII years in Brazil working with a rubber procurement project. He was a leading pioneer in tropical plant taxonomy, and that interest led him to return to the tropics in the 1950s. In Honduras, he helped to establish and direct a large herbarium at the Escuela Agricola Panamericana, and additionally developed a regional natural history library, launched the journal Ceiba, and taught. In 1960, he joined the staff of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and by 1964 had become head of the department. Known as a capable and approachable administrator, he rebuilt the department, revived its floristic programs, and developed grant support. His botanical collections numbered more than 43,000. Following his retirement, Williams continued his research and completed his six-volume Flora of Guatemala. Following his death in 1991, his widow, Terua, wrote the index and final volume of this work. Williams' library and private herbarium are now part of the Marie Selby Botanical Garden.

*In loving memory

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