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Papenfuss, George Frederik (1903-1981) | University and Jepson Herbaria Archives, University of California, Berkeley

Name: Papenfuss, George Frederik (1903-1981)
Variant Name: Papenfuss, G. F.; Papenfuss, George Frederick

Historical Note:

George Frederik (Frederick) Papenfuss was born in 1903 near Harrismith, Orange Free State, South Africa.  He left South Africa for the United States in 1926 and attended  North Carolina State College, graduating with high honors in 1929. He then began graduate school at John Hopkins University, where he initially planned on studying plant pathology but became interested in marine phycology after spending a summer at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Maine. His dissertation was on the life history of the filamentous brown algae Ectocarpus.  While in graduate school he married fellow student Emma Jean Johnstone.

After graduating in 1933 he taught for a year at Johns Hopkins and then received a postdoctoral fellowship to study with the Swedish marine phycologists Harald Kylin and Nils Svedelius.  He was able to extend his fellowship for a year to collect seaweeds in South Africa, and then was able to obtain funding from the Carnegie Corporation for 1935-1939 to continue collecting, surveying 2000 miles of coastline and assembling a vast collection of South African seaweeds. In 1939 he began working at the University of Hawaii, and in 1942 he received a two year fellowship from the Carnegie Corporation to study at the University of California, Berkeley with William A. Setchell. After Setchell's death in 1943, Papenfuss was hired in 1944 as an assistant professor at Berkeley, where he worked until his retirement in 1971. Papenfuss supervised 17 graduate students at Berkeley, including noted phycologists Isabella Abbott and Paul Silva. He served as curator of algae at the University Herbarium from 1944-1960.

Papenfuss was instrumental in created the International Phycology Society. He was a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, a Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, and a Honorary Member of the South African Association of Botanists.  He served as president of the California Botanical Society and  the Western Society of Naturalists. He was the driving force behind the 1st International Phycological Congress in 1982 and served posthumously as president for that meeting.

In retirement, Papenfuss remained active at the University Herbarium. He passed away in Berkeley, California on December 8, 1981.


Silva, Paul. (January 31, 1982) Eulogy for George Frederik Papenfuss (1903-1981). Delivered at a memorial service held at the Faculty Club.

West, John A., Constance, Lincoln, et al. (1985) In Memorium: George Fredrik Papenfuss. University of California, Berkeley.

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