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Department of Botany, Smithsonian Institution, presents annual award to Honor José Cuatrecasas

Laurence Dorr (left) presenting Walter Judd with the 2012 José Cuatrecasas Medal for Excellence in Tropical Botany. (Photo by Ken Wurdack)

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.

This year we are very pleased to present the tenth José Cuatrecasas Medal for Excellence in Tropical Botany to Walter S. Judd of the University of Florida at Gainesville. In making this selection, the award committee took note of the many contributions Walt has made to tropical botany through his research, field work, and teaching.

He received a B.S. (1973) and M.S. (1974) from Michigan State University and a Ph.D. from Harvard University (1978). His doctoral dissertation was a revision of the genus Lyonia (Ericaceae) and field work in Hispaniola undertaken in support of this research first introduced him to the high mountain flora of the Caribbean. Since then Walt has established himself as one of the world's experts in the Ericaceae, a family well-known in temperate and boreal regions but also well-represented in the tropics. Walt's trips to the Caribbean also incited an interest in the almost exclusively tropical Melastomataceae, and the species-rich Miconeae of this plant family has been another long-standing focus of his systematic research. Not all of his research contributions, however, are restricted to these two families as Walt also made general collections in Hispaniola and prepared a number of floristic inventories for national parks in Haiti. For many years he has been one of the principals in the "Generic flora of the Southeastern United States" project, which although focused on a more or less temperate flora does treat tropical elements that occur in southern Florida and generally requires knowledge of tropical relatives of temperate genera.

Walt has always incorporated phylogenetic considerations into his revisionary work and with several co-authors he has incorporated these ideas into one of the most widely used text books in our discipline, Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach. The text book, translated into at least five languages and now in its third edition (and being revised for a fourth edition), is utilized in over 150 universities world-wide. Walt has had a strong influence on tropical Botany through his teaching and he has supervised more than 30 graduate students at the University of Florida. Many of these students have made and continue to make their own contributions to tropical Botany. Finally, Walt has for many years taught a summer course in "Tropical Botany" in suburban Miami, utilizing the extensive collection of living tropical plants found at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, The Kampong of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, and the Montgomery Botanical Center.

 

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