Coulter, John Merle


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Coulter, John Merle

(1851–1928) botanist; born in Ningpo, China. A child of missionary parents, he was taken to Indiana by his mother in 1853 after his father's death. Originally a geologist, he brought back plant specimens after serving with the U.S. Geological Survey in the Rocky Mountains (1872–73). He became a professor of botany at Hanover College (1874–79), and founded the Botanical Gazette (1875), which became a leading American journal. He joined Wabash College (1879–91), then moved to Indiana University (1891–93), but resigned after differing with the politics of fundraising. He became president of Lake Forest University (1893–96), but he felt that administrative duties interfered with his botanical studies, so he moved to the University of Chicago (1896–1935), where he concentrated on plant physiology, morphology, and ecology. Called the "dean of American botanists," he wrote many books and monographs on North American flowering plants, although his greatest influence was as an educator. He became adviser to the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Yonkers, N.Y. (1925–28).