George F. Atkinson

(1854 - 1918)

George Francis Atkinson spent most of his career studying fungi.  As a world renowned authority on mycology, he contributed much to scientific meetings and was the first president of the American Botanical Society.

George F. Atkinson was born on January 26, 1854 in Raisinville, Michigan.  He attended Olivet College and later Cornell University, from which he graduated in 1885.  Atkinson began his work in zoology, but later shifted to biology and botany.  After having brief positions at the University of North Carolina, the University of South Carolina, and the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, Atkinson returned to Cornell in 1892 to pursue plant pathology and mycology.   In 1896, he became head of the Department of Botany after the death of A. N. Prentiss.

The time he spent as an administrator and teacher left little time for research, but Atkinson still found time to pursue his study of mycology.  Trips to Europe for botanical meetings gave him the opportunity to study fungi of the various regions.  Field trips with students in the U.S. provided the opportunity to study American fungi.  Years of collecting resulted in an impressive herbarium of mycological specimens.   In addition to his fungi collecting, Atkinson had extensively collected mosses, described fresh-water algae, and left a few vascular plant specimens in the Cornell herbarium. 

Atkinson published several text books used extensively in teaching.  Among them are The Biology of Ferns, Elementary Botany, and Mushrooms Edible, Poisonous, etc.  He also published many papers on fungi, but was unable to complete his proposed monographic study on the fleshy fungi of North America.  His sudden death from influenza and pneumonia occurred on November 14, 1918.


For further information please see:

Fitzpatrick, Harry M.  1919.  George Francis Atkinson, Science Vol. XLIX, No. 1268, pp. 371-372.

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