Fernald, Merritt L.

Fernald, Merritt L. (Lyndon)

(1873–1950) botanist; born in Orono, Maine. He spent his career at Harvard (1891–1947), serving as curator and director of their Gray Herbarium (1935–47) and as professor of botany. A major contributor to systematic botany, he wrote over 900 monographs and scientific papers on the geographical relationship of the plants of temperate North America. He proposed the controversial "nunatak theory," which refuted the theory that northern North America was completely covered by a thick ice sheet; his theory argued that certain plants survived Pleistocene glaciation on nunataks (promontories which project above the surface of a glacier). He edited the journal Rhodora (1899–1928), and published his greatest achievement, the totally revised eighth edition of Gray's Manual of Botany, in 1950.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.