Mary Minerva Steagall

Mary M. Steagall (2nd from left); H.C. Cowles (3rd from left); Miller; Hines at Ozark, Illinois.  American Environmental Photographs Collection, AEP-ILS329, Department of Special Collections, University of Chicago Library.

Mary M. Steagall (2nd from left); H.C. Cowles (3rd from left); Miller; Hines at Ozark, Illinois.
American Environmental Photographs Collection, AEP-ILS329, Department of Special Collections, University of Chicago Library.

She joined the Biology Department at Southern Illinois University (SIU, then Southern Illinois Normal College, SINC) in 1913 and became its head in 1921, a position she held until her retirement 17 years later at the age of 71. After a 1926 split, however, it was the Zoology portion of the enterprise she managed. But was she a zoologist? Her career suggests broader interests.

Mary Minerva Steagall was a student of H.C. Cowles and W.C. Allee at the University of Chicago, obtaining her PhD by 1908. She taught in the training school, taught mathematics and Latin, and she landed in the three-person Biology & Agriculture Department. By 1929, those three people were all women; she was joined by Hilda A. Stein and Martha H. Scott. The three offered 16 courses in zoology that year; Ms. Scott also aided the Botany Dept’s teaching load.

According to Dr. Steagall’s bio at SIU, on solo field trips “…she typically carried a loaded pistol, but admitted she only used it once (to let a rabble of moonshiners know she wasn’t easily scared away).”

Outside of zoology, Dr. Steagall is known for her interest in rare ferns, notably the filmy fern (Trichomanes boschianum) in Illinois. In 1923, she discovered the fern in Jackson Hollow, Pope County, a locality where it was next documented in 1961 by Robert Evers, by which time it was not just rare but seriously threatened.

Dr. Steagall was engaged in her community as well as academia, even running as Progressive Party Candidate for the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1914. She also served the Illinois Council of Administrative Women in Education, and of course, the ESA.

Dr. Mary Steagall had joined ESA by 1923 and continued as a member for many years. She was, along with Dr. Victor Shelford, the “state representative” for the organization, charged with developing regional contacts for the fledging society. According to Ben Gelman, “As a member of the National Committee on Conservation and Preservation of Natural Areas, Steagall helped the Ecological Society of America set aside many undisturbed areas valuable for scientific study.”

References (to be completed, but see links above)

Bio at SIU

Zoology Dept history at SIU

Steagall Candidate

Illinois Council of Administrative Women in Education

Filmy Fern in Illinois, by Robert A. Evers

Article in The Southern Illinoisan, by Ben Gelman

Ecology of Southern Illinois Ferns

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Transeau Resolution of Respect

President (1924) of the E.S.A.

As published in the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, Vol. 41, No. 2 (Jun, 1960), pp. 62-64. At Jstor stable URL.

The greatest contribution of Edgar Nelson Transeau is not, so far as I know, a matter of record. I do not refer to his important technical studies of the algae and of vegetation, his administrative skill in transforming a small department of botany into a large one abreast of modern science, or even to his work of intellectual synthesis and practical reforms in the teaching of general botany. In all of these respects, as well as in the development of a group of able botanists, he was pre-eminent.

But quietly and steadily through the years his classes in ecology attracted serious future specialists in a wide range of pure and applied biology. As a result one encounters entomologists, agronomists, foresters, soil scientists, teachers and investigators in many fields whose horizons have been broadened by him during their apprentice ship at Ohio State University.

Such individuals show a lively respect for ecology. As a result they see their own activities in a perspective too often lacking. And thanks to Transeau’s rigorous, often Socratic method of teaching, they have enjoyed a remarkable discipline in clarity of thought and expression, in sound and critical techniques both laboratory and field. This service, whose benefits range far beyond the confines of botany, I rate as Transeau’s greatest.

Edgar Nelson Transeau was born at Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1875. His French name was adopted by German ancestors who crossed the Rhine during the turmoil of a past century, possibly the Thirty Years’ War. He was graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 1897 and never tired of expressing his debt to a professor whom he affectionately referred to as “Dutchy.” In fact, his gratitude to teachers and colleagues whom he respected, for example Cowles, Coulter, Salisbury, and Adams, was remarkable in a man so little effusive and so solid in his own right. This admiration extended to good administrators and editors with whom he had worked. At the same time his less favorable appraisals of other characters were acute, just and?it must be confessed?often highly entertaining.

Transeau’s professional training was divided between the universities of Chicago (1900-1901) and Michigan, where he received his doctorate in 1904, his thesis being a study on bogs of the Huron River Valley. Unless I have been misinformed, this classic work was carried on in spite of a then skeptical view of ecology at Michigan. Doubt less he was buoyed up through it by his previously more congenial experience at Chicago.

Following service at Alma College and later at Cold Spring Harbor he taught at Eastern Illinois Normal School from 1907 to 1915. This excellent school was blessed with a president who was equally concerned with good teaching practice and sound subject matter instruction. He was also sympathetic with research. During this time Transeau was enabled to complete a seven-year study of algal periodicity and become a master of the field of algology.

He succeeded Dachnowski as professor of ecology and plant physiology at Ohio State in 1915, at a critical period of expansion for that institution. One of his first responsibilities was to act as host to the small but distinguished group who organized the Ecological Society of America at the AAAS meeting at Columbus during that year. Three years later he succeeded the late John H. Schaffner as department head, leaving the latter free to pursue work that he preferred to administration. Incidentally, Transeau was among the relatively few to understand the greatness of Schaffner’s achievements, obscured by the latter’s modesty and the small circulation of his papers published in the Ohio Journal of Science. In many respects Schaffner anticipated others who have enjoyed wider fame. Coming to Ohio State at the height of his powers, Transeau brought a unique combination of talents. Equally appreciative of scholarship and good teaching, both as to manner and method, he broke down the shop-worn barriers between class and laboratory and effected a new synthesis of the various facets of botany. He dealt effectively and in an original way with the problems of mass teaching. He also helped dispel the superstition that time given to guiding the basic adventure in science, i.e. laboratory work, is worth only half the time given to lecturing and recitation, however drowsy. I recall during this period remarking to William Crocker that Transeau had in a short time developed one of the best departments of botany in the nation. Crocker’s response was “Why do you say one of the best? It is top-notch.”

Transeau eventually presented his synthesis of general botany in text form. The first of his books was a beautifully balanced, clearly written secondary school text, SCIENCE OF PLANT LIFE, followed in 1923 by his GENERAL BOTANY. In both works the ecology of the living plant serves as the central theme, instead of being dragged in as a perfunctory chapter somewhere along the line as it too often is. Because he knew plants and plant behavior as well as vegetation, his concept of ecology was sound and symmetrical. He was an early student of such disparate matters as the historical factor in vegetation on the one hand, and the energetics of plant communities on the other. He followed developments in physical chemistry closely and urged upon his students the importance of mathematics.

I do not have at hand his complete bibliography. It is not lengthy by current standards. Like his former teacher, John M. Coulter, he believed that “a man is not heard for his much speaking” and was more interested in quality than mass production. His services to botany are attested by his presidency in 1940 of the Botanical Society of America.

As with all of us, Transeau had his share of disappointments. With his support, Adolph Waller had developed a small but superb botanical garden at Ohio State. This was ruthlessly destroyed to make way for new buildings. More tragic was the premature loss of his wife, a physician of great ability and intelligence. Happily he was able to spend his later years with his daughter Betty, Mrs. August C. Mahr, and her family.

Physically, Edgar Transeau was a handsome individual, in manner reserved and yet an excellent conversationalist. Skeptical but never cynical, he was capable of strong, quiet enthusiasm, while his firm character commanded both respect and loyalty from his associates and students. Certainly he was a man of wisdom and good judgment. I shall not forget his reply, when sometime around 1937 I asked him if he thought there would be a general war. His answer was, “Of course there will be. When men get guns to play with, they will soon begin to shoot each other.”

Although I never had the privilege of sitting in his classes, I am immeasurably grateful for the few years I was his associate and the many that I was his friend.

Paul B. Sears,
At the request of the Resolutions Committee, R. B. Kelting, L. B. Slobodkin, F. W. Stearns and C. J. Goodnight, Chm.

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William Skinner Cooper

William S. Cooper
Born: Detroit, MI 8/25/1884; died 10/8/1978
Education: Alma Coll. (B.S. 1906), Johns Hopkins (1906-07, no degree), Chicago (Ph.D. 1911)
Dissertation title: The climax forest of Isle Royale, Lake Superior, and its development (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 1914-15; Minnesota 1915-51
Ph. D. Students: R. Daubenmire, R. R. Humphrey, J. H. Langenheim, H. J. Oosting.
Others influenced: M. F. Buell, F. E. Egler, R. L. Lindeman.
ESA offices and honors: Vice President 1927; President 1936, Eminent Ecologist 1963
ESA links:
Archived Papers: William Skinner Cooper Papers at Minnesota | Some correspondence in the Fuller Papers at UGA/ESA Archives
External links: Smith bios | Wikipedia

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Arthur W. Cooper

Arthur W. Cooper
Born: Washington, DC 8/15/1931
Education: Colgate (B.A. 1953, M.A. 1955); Michigan (Ph.D. 1958).
Dissertation title: Plant life-forms as indicators of microclimate (Ecol. Mon. 31:31-59)
Adviser: Stanley A. Cain (C)
Teaching history: N.C. State 1958-71, 1976-2001 (emeritus).
Ph. D. Students; others influenced:
ESA offices and honors: Vice President 1974-75; President 1980-81; Distinguished Service Citation 1984.
ESA links:
Archived papers: Inventory of the Arthur W. Cooper Papers at Forest History Society | Some correspondence in Patten Papers at UGA/ESA archives
External links: Other sources

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Frederic E. Clements

Frederic E. Clements
Born: Lincoln, NE 9/16/1874; died 7/26/1945
Education: Nebraska (B. Sc. 1894, M.A. 1396, Ph.D. 1898)
Dissertation title: The phytogeography of Nebraska (presented jointly with Roscoe Pound)
Adviser: Charles E. Bessey
Teaching history: Nebraska 1894-1907; Minnesota 1907-17.
Ph. D. Students: J. E. Weaver, H. L. Shantz
ESA offices and honors: None.
ESA links:
Archived papers: Inventory of the Edith S. and Frederic E. Clements Papers | Some correspondence in Vestal Papers at UGA/ESA Archives | Suggestions for ecological research at Point Lobos reserve (Berkeley carbon copy) | a correspondent in Adolph Waller Papers at OSU
External links: Smith bios | Wikipedia

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Norman L. Christensen

Norman L. Christensen
Born: Fresno, CA 12/28/1946
Education: Cal State Fresno (AB 1968, MS 1970); UC Santa Barbara (Ph.D. 1973)
Dissertation title: Effects of fire on factors controlling plant growth in Adenostoma chaparral (Science 181:66-68; Ecol. Mon. 45 29-55.)
Adviser: C. H. Muller (C)
Comments: Strongly influenced by Bert A. Tribbey (CA State Univ, Fresno).
Teaching History: Duke 1973-present
Ph. D. Students: Craig E. Martin, 1980; John C. Horn, 1980; Barbara A. Beaman, 1981; Anne E. Lubbers, 1982; Mark R. Roberts, 1983; Frank S. Gilliam, 1983; Ellen L. Simms, 1983; Rebecca B. Wilbur, 1984; James Raich, 1987; Michael Palmer, 1988; Richard E. Schneider, 1989; Suzanne McAlister, 1990; Douglas S. Powell, 1991; Patricia Peroni, 1992; Jane Molofsky, 1993; Stephen Rice, 1993; Eric Kjellmark, 1994; Ruth A. Kern, 1997; Deborah Lawrence, 1997 (co-advised with William Schlesinger); Sarah Goslee, 1998; Chi-ru Chang, 1997 (co-advised with Dean Urban); Phyllis C. Adams, 1999; Monique Rocca, 2004 (co-advised with Dean Urban); Benjamin Poulter, 2005; Alan Weakley, 2006; Miguel Schwarz, 2007; Charlotte Clark, 2007; Nicolette Cagle, 2008; Dalia Amor Ovando Conde, 2008; Sara Chun, 2008; Krithi Karanth, 2008; Jennifer M. Adeney, 2009; Claire O’Dea, 2010.
Others influenced: Michael S. Schafale, MS 1983
ESA offices and honors: Vice President for Finance 2002-2005, President 2007-8
ESA links:
Archived Papers:
External links: Faculty bio

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John E. Cantlon

>John E. Cantlon
Born: Sparks, NV 10/6/1921
Education: Nevada (B.S. 1947), Rutgers (Ph.D. 1950).
Dissertation title: Vegetation and microclimates on north and south slopes of Cushetunk Mt., New Jersey (Ecol. Mon. 23:241-270)
Adviser: M. F. Buell (C)
Comments: Worked with W. D. Billings as undergraduate.
Teaching history: George Washington Univ. 1950-53; Michigan State 1954-90 (administration after 1969).
Ph. D. Students: P. A. Werner
Others influenced: Frank Golley
ESA offices and honors: Secretary 1958-61; Vice President 1965; President 1968-69.
Archived papers: Mentioned in Deevey Papers at UGA/ESA Archives

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Stanley A. Cain

Stanley A. Cain
Born: Jefferson Co. IN 6/19/1902; died 4/1/1995
Education: Butler Univ. (B.S. 1924); Chicago (M.S. 1927, Ph.D. 1930)
Dissertation title: An ecological study of the heath balds of the Great Smoky Mountains. (Butler Univ. Bot. Stud. 1:117-208)
Adviser: George D. Fuller (C)
Comments: H. C. Cowles was adviser for M.S. and strongest influence at Chicago.
Teaching history: Butler Univ. 1925-31; Indiana 1931-33; Tennessee 1935-46; Michigan 1950-65, 1968-74; UC-Santa Cruz 1974-?
Ph. D. Students: A. W. Cooper
Others influenced: W. D. Billings, R. Daubenmire (undergraduate)
ESA offices and honors: Treasurer 1939-40, 1943; Vice-President 1953; Member at Large 1955-56; President 1958; Eminent Ecologist 1969.
Archived Papers:Stanley A. Cain papers at UC Santa Cruz
External links: Smith bios

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Murray F. Buell

Murray F. Buell
Born: New Haven, CT 10/6/1905, died 7/2/1975
Education: Cornell (A.B. 1930); Minnesota (A.M. 1934, Ph.D. 1935).
Dissertation title: The embryology of Acorus calamus Linn. (Bot. Gaz. 99:556-568)
Adviser: F. K. Butters (confirmed by Helen Buell)
Comments: Strongly influenced by W. S. Cooper in graduate school. ESA’s Buell Award was established in his name in 1977.
Teaching history: N.C. State 1935-46; Rutgers 1946-71. Summers at Itasca Biol. Sta. (Minnesota) for many years. After retirement taught at Yale, Minnesota, Georgia, Arizona, UC-Davis, UC-Santa Barbara, Montana, and Colorado State.
Ph. D. Students: J. E. Cantlon, W. A. Reiners, W. A. Niering.
Others influenced: F. H. Bormann (undergraduate)
ESA offices and honors: Secretary 1951-53; Vice President 1955; President 1962; Eminent Ecologist 1970
ESA links: Eminent Ecologist | Resolution of Respect
Archived Papers: Location unknown, but Buell is mentioned as a correspondent in a Botany Department collection at University of Minnesota archives, and is included in a biographical file of Minnesota faculty at the University archives
External links: Wikipedia

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E. Lucy Braun

Emma Lucy Braun
Born: Cincinnati, OH 4/19/1889; died 3/5/1971
Education: Cincinnati (B.A. 1910; M.A. 1912; Ph.D. 1914)
Dissertation title: The physiographic ecology of the Cincinnati region (Ohio Biol. Surv. 2:115-211. Bull. no. 7)
Adviser: H. M. Benedict (D)
Comments: Thesis thanks H. C. Cowles for helpful suggestions. A new Eupatorium species, E. luciae-brauniae, was named for her by M. L. Fernald. See biographical article by R. L. Stuckey, Mich. Botanist 12:83-106 (1973).
Teaching history: Cincinnati 1914-48 (emer.)-71
Ph. D. Students; others influenced:
ESA offices and honors: Vice President 1935; President 1950.
Archived Papers: Photo album finding aid at Smithsonian
| Related biographical material with Rochonne Weintraub Abrams Papers
External links: Smith bios | Wikipedia

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