Meyer, Frederick G. (Deceased)
Fred was born on December 7, 1917, in Olympia, Washington. He went to Washington State University in Pullman and earned a BS degree in 1939 and an MS degree in 1941. He earned a PhD degree in botany at Washington University in St. Louis in 1949, studying the genus Valeriana. Fred was a staff sergeant in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946. He came to Washington, D.C., to work as a botanist at the New Crops Research Branch, U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Beltsville, Maryland, from 1956 to 1963, and then as the resident botanist in charge of the herbarium at the U.S. National Arboretum from 1963 until his retirement in 1991. Fred made extensive collections of living plants and herbarium specimens in the United States, western and southern Europe, Japan, Ethiopia, and South America. He personally introduced germplasm of several thousand plants to the United States, including the first American introductions of numerous European and Japanese cultivars. Fred was also the first modern collector to bring back wild coffee germplasm from its native range in southern Ethiopia, an important contribution to a crop plant that had become highly inbred. Fred’s extensive plant introduction work led to the award of the Frank N. Meyer (no relation!) Memorial Medal in 1982 “in recognition of distinguished service in the field of plant introduction.” His research specialties included studies in Coffea and Valeriana, and ethnobotany of archeological sites destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 AD. In 1999, he published a major work on the botany of Fuchs, a new edition of Fuch’s De Historia Stirpium, or The great herbal of Leonhart Fuchs, by Stanford University Press. With colleague, archeologist Wilhemina Jashemski, he edited a lavishly illustrated, comprehensive, multiauthored monograph on The Natural History of Pompeii published by Cambridge University Press in 2002. Fred was very active in developing the National Arboretum. His own germplasm and herbarium collections form an important part of the material, and he played a major role in acquiring outside collections, such as the Gotelli Dwarf Conifer Collection and the Isaac Martindale Herbarium. Fred also donated his large and very valuable library, which includes many rare medieval herbals. Fred was an accomplished pianist. He owned a grand piano and the scores of every classical sonata, many of which he could play from memory. During his high school years, he took private lessons on the saxophone. During his college years, he purchased a bass sax and played in the Washington State College band as well as other dance bands. Fred married Lillian Eugene “Jean” Nicholson on August 23, 1946. They had no children. Jean died on May 11, 1983. He was elected to the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1963. He has served on various committees, including membership. He also was a member of the Cosmos Club and several botanical societies. Fred lived in Tacoma Park and Silver Spring, Maryland, in retirement. He died on October 13, 2006, from pneumonia that he contracted in the hospital while being treated for a bad fall in September. A memorial service was held on October 21, 2006, in the Washington National Presbyterian Church.