Today is the day that the botanist Sylvia Edlund was born in Pittsburgh.
She earned a Ph.D. in botany from the University of Chicago
Edlund was sickly as a child. She was often confined to her bed. She said that she took up botany because she thought she shouldn’t study anything she’d have to chase
She worked for the United Nations, assembling an inventory of plants and animals in the far north. She worked for the geological survey of Canada for 20 years but was forced to retire in 1994 after an inflamed appendix went undiagnosed and ended up affecting her short term memory.
Edlund died in British Columbia in 2014 at the age of 69. Her colleague, Fenja Brodo, wrote a tribute to her in The Ottawa Citizenthat was especially touching. She wrote,
"It was not easy for her being the lone botanist, and a female at that, working in a predominantly male environment. Sylvia met the challenge and became an internationally recognized leader in plant distribution patterns in the Arctic. She showed that ground ice melt was the water source for the unexpectedly lush green valleys in parts of the High Arctic and demonstrated how climate, substrate, and geomorphic processes influence what can grow where.
Sylvia was always an artist, with pen, paints and fabrics. She wrote and illustrated (water colours) a booklet on Common Arctic Wildflowers of the Northwest Territories for schoolchildren of the north.
Each Christmas, she made another set of delightful felt animal ornaments, which she presented to friends. (For two years, her creations adorned the tree at the Canadian Museum of Nature.)"