The Department of Botany and the United States National Herbarium are proud to award annually the José Cuatrecasas Medal for Excellence in Tropical Botany. Our objectives are two-fold. Firstly, we wish to keep vibrant the accomplishments and memory of our late colleague José Cuatrecasas (1903–1996) who spent almost fifty years working in our Department and who had a distinguished career devoted to systematic botany and exploration in tropical South America, especially in Colombia. And secondly, we wish to use this award as a vehicle to honor a professional colleague who is a botanist and scholar of international stature and who has contributed significantly to advancing the field of tropical botany.
Beryl B. Simpson of the University of Texas at Austin is the ninth recipient of the JosÃ© Cuatrecasas Medal for Excellence in Tropical Botany. Simpson's area of expertise is the phylogeny and biogeography of various angiosperm groups, primarily from the American Southwest, Mexico, and Central and South America. The award committee was impressed with her monograph of Krameriaceae and her revisions of Andean genera such as Polylepis (Rosaceae) and Perezia (Asteraceae) as well as other tropical groups of plants. Simpsonâ€™s papers on biogeography, plant-insect interactions, and her text book on economic botany are all evidence of a rich and diverse career. The award committee also took note of her three decades of guiding and supervising students as a Professor at the University of Texas and of her many contributions to tropical botany through directing the University of Texas herbaria and service as editor or officer of professional societies.
Simpson received her A.B. magna cum laude from Radcliffe College in 1964, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1967 and 1968, respectively. She continued at Harvard, first as a postdoctoral fellow and then as an Assistant Curator of the Gray Herbarium. In 1972, she joined the Smithsonian Institution as an Associate Curator in the Department of Botany at the National Museum of Natural History. In 1978, she secured an appointment as Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and in 1994 became the C.L. Lundell Professor of Systematic Botany. Simpson has held several major offices with professional societies, such as President of the Society for the Study of Evolution, Chairman of the U.S. Committee to the International Union of Biological Sciences, President of the Botanical Society of America, and President of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists. In 1994, she was honored as an Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
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