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Willis Linn Jepson

Willis Linn Jepson was born on August 18, 1867 in Little Oak, near Vacaville, CA. He became interested in botany as a boy and explored adjacent regions for new material, and came in contact with various botanists before he entered college. He graduated at the University of California in 1889, and the following year became an assistant in botany. From 1895 to 1898 Jepson served as instructor, and carried on research at Berkeley, Cornell (1895) and Harvard (1896-97), and received his Ph.D. degree at California in 1899. He was made assistant professor in 1899, associate professor in 1911, professor in 1918, and professor emeritus in 1937. Thus, his entire career was identified with the University of California.

Willis Linn Jepson was 25 years old in 1892, when together with John Muir and Warren Olney, at an attorney's office in San Francisco, formed the Sierra Club. During his lifetime, Jepson wrote at least 11 books, two of which were on California's trees. He wrote many books and works including The Flora of California, The Jepson Manual, and the Guide to Standard Floras of the World. He was a Professor of Botany at the University of California for four decades. Jepson traveled widely in California, on foot, by automobile, but he even took a steamship to Catalina Island in 1908 and a rowboat down the Colorado River in 1912, all in the search of plants and wild nature. Jepson published numerous articles, in Madrono, Erythea, and the Sierra Club Bulletin. He formed the California Botanical Society and the Save the Redwoods League.

Many honors came to him during his long, productive lifetime. His colleagues honored him with the Faculty Research Lectureship in 1934, and his University with the LL.D. in 1941. He was president of the California Botanical Society, 1913-15 and 1918-29; fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Science (Boston), Royal Society of Arts (London), and American Geographical Society; delegate to the International Agricultural Congress at Liége (1906) and the International Botanical Congresses at Cambridge (1930) and Amsterdam (1935); foreign member of the Société Linnéenne de Lyon and the National Botanical Society of Czechoslovakia; councilor of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden; life member of the American Genetic Association; and member of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, Botanical Society of America, Society of Foresters, Washington Academy of Sciences, Western Society of Naturalists, Phi Beta Kappa, and Sigma Xi.

His memory is perpetuated by the saxifragaceous genus Jepsonia, and by a host of commemorative specific names. But these tokens are insignificant in comparison with the tremendous debt owed him by every student of Californian natural history. He was remarkably successful both as a teacher and writer in communicating his great enthusiasm for the flora which he had done so much to make understandable.