Edgar Nelson Transeau

Edgar N. Transeau
Born: Williamsport, PA 10/21/1875; died 1960
Education: Franklin and Marshall Coll. (A.B. 1897); Chicago (1900-01, no degree); Michigan (Ph.D. 1904)
Dissertation title: The bog vegetation of the Huron River Valley (Bot. Gaz. 40:351-375, 418-448; 41:17-42)
Adviser: F. C. Newcombe (see comments)
Comments: Although Newcombe was his official adviser, Transeau’s own writings make it clear that he went to Michigan primarily for financial reasons and that his main ecological mentor was H. C. Cowles. His comments on his graduate school experience may offer some consolation to modern students who think their advisers don’t understand them:

On August 1, I accepted the Ferry Fellowship at the University of Michigan at $500, and resigned from Colorado Springs High School. Went to Ann Arbor, Michigan, about September 15 and entered upon the study of bogs and bog plants under Professor V. M. Spalding. Bogs abundant, but ideas scarce. Spalding was taken ill in November and went to Tucson, Arizona, — never saw him again… Fellowship was renewed the following year and I continued to work under my own direction until May 1904.

Prof. Newcombe, the acting head of the department, came to me on May 1 and suggested that we go down to Detroit and see my sponsor, Mr. D. M. Ferry, the Seedsman, to have the Fellowship renewed for another year. I told him I was not interested in having another year at Ann Arbor, but wanted my degree in June. He said that he did not think I had any material for a thesis. I telegraphed immediately to Cowles, and Cowles said I could have my degree at Chicago in the Summer Quarter, if I would come there. So I told Mr. Newcombe that I would either get the degree in June at Ann Arbor, or at Chicago in September. He said that I would have to hand in my thesis by the 10th of May. I handed in a 200 page typewritten thesis on that day by working 18 hours a day. It was accepted, I passed my examination, and I got my degree, Ph.D., in June 1904. During the two years at Ann Arbor I had never discussed my problems with Newcombe at any time, and he said he was surprised at the contents of the thesis. Since I was Spalding’s student he could have nothing to do with me. That was the code at Ann Arbor.” (from unpublished autobiographical notes)

Teaching history: Alma Coll. (Mich.) 1904-06; Eastern 111. State Teachers Coll. 1907-15; Ohio State 1915-46.
Ph.D. students: Glenn W. Blaydes, Paul J. Kramer, Lewis H. Tiffany, John Wolfe
Others influenced: W. S. Cooper (undergraduate), Homer C. Sampson, Paul B. Sears, Royal Shanks (M.S.), Aaron J. Sharp
ESA offices and honors: Vice President 1921; President 1924
Archived Papers: A photo listed in Thomas L. Hankinson Papers at University of Michigan archives
External links: Smith bios


List is based on Microbiographies prepared by Doug Sprugel (Sprugel, 1980; updated White, Sprugel, Mulroy, 2010). Full version is at Microbiographies page on ESA History Extra.

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  1. […] (Bot. Gaz. 55:1-44, 115-140, 189-235) Adviser: H. C. Cowles (CD) Comments: Introduced to ecology by E. N. Transeau as an undergraduate. Also had early contact with Forrest Shreve. Teaching history: Stanford […]

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