Read, Robert W. (Deceased)
Bob was born in Woodbury, New Jersey, on December 13, 1931. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve from1950 to 1954 and then the U.S. Air Force Reserve from 1954 to 1957 with several years of active duty. He earned a BS degree at the University of Miami in 1958 and an MS degree at Cornell University in 1961. He was awarded his PhD degree at the University of the West Indies in 1968. Bob was a botanist at the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami during 1960 to 1965. In 1967, he received a postdoctoral research award from the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, to work with Dr. Lyman B. Smith at the Smithsonian Botany Department. He was field chief for the Flora of Ceylon Project (1969-70), and assumed editorship for the Index Nominum Genericorum project (1970-72). In 1972, he joined the staff of the North American Flora Project and served as editor for one year. In 1973, he became an associate curator in the Department of Botany, Smithsonian, and later curator until his retirement in 1989. Following his retirement to Naples, Florida, Bob continued his research on palms and bromeliads with a renewed staff position at the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami. He was active in the Botanical Society of Washington as secretary, vice president, and president. He served on the board of the Las Cruces Botanical Garden and on the advisory committee of the Marie Selby Botanical Garden. His particular research interests focused on systematic botany, especially the recalcitrant and often poorly collected groups: palms, bromeliads, cycads, and orchids. A number of species of plants were named for him including a palm, Coccothrinax readii, an acanth, Justicic readii, and a bromeliad, Billbergia robertreadii. In 1993, he was co-founder and founding chairman of the Botanical Garden, Inc., now the Naples Botanical Garden in Naples, Florida. He was nominated to the board of directors of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida (1993-99), and served as secretary to the local chapter of the Explorers Club (1997-2000). He also was featured in 60-second radio spots aired throughout the week with botanical and environmental information in 1999 and 2000. Bob died of congestive heart failure on July 16, 2003, in Naples, Florida. He was elected to the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1975 and served on several committees, including house and grounds in 1982 and auditing in 1983.