John Merle Coulter

Founder of the Botanical Gazette

Today is the birthday of John Merle Coulter, who was born on this day in 1851.

In November 1875, Coulter founded the Botanical Gazette, and a year-long subscription cost $1. The first issue was called the Botanical Bulletin. However, out of respect for the similarly named Torrey Botanical Club Bulletin, Coulter changed the name to the Botanical Gazette for the second issue, and the name stuck.

At first, Coulter edited the Botanical Gazette alongside his brother, Stanley, who was also a botanist. He had a number of co-editors throughout the years.

After twenty years of publication, the University of Chicago Press took control of the Botanical Gazette. Coulter remained an editor of the paper for half a century. 

Coulter was a lifelong friend of Asa Gray, who he also considered his most influential mentor. Coulter was a prolific writer on the subject of botany, and he collaborated on a large number of scientific books. His Handbook of Plant Dissection was often referred to as the ABC botany book in honor of the last names of the authors: Joseph Arthur, Charles Barnes, and John Coulter. 

Coulter led the Botany department at the University of Chicago, where he was especially impactful and beloved. A few days after his death, his widow received a volume containing testimonials from botanists around the country along with a silver tea set in recognition of her husband's work. Also, his students and peers had established a fellowship in his name in 1928 and had managed to raise over $25,000 to support future botany students. Coulter was alive to learn of these honors, but sadly, he died just days before the scheduled event, which was held in his honor.


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John Merle Coulter
John Merle Coulter

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